As I sat down this morning to try and envision the possible future of the State of Israel sixty years hence, I found it incredibly difficult to disperse the fog. Similar to Harry Potter, I sat staring glumly into the crystal ball; saw only smoke and so decided to invent to the best of my imagination. I've put down three possible scenarios. You can be the judge and you are definitely allowed to reach your own conclusions!
Yesterday the Knesset convened in the Peres Peace Center in order to hear speeches from visiting dignitaries regarding peace and bi-nationality. This event comes following the Palestinians' refusal to establish a Palestinian State - despite the repeated pleadings of Israel's Prime Minister. The Hamas spokesman argued that if the Jews so ardently want the Palestinians to establish a State, there must be some Zionist plot here, and they refuse to participate in it.
In the meantime, the Attorney-General to the government is checking the legality in international law of Israel declaring a State of Palestine - despite the Palestinians lack of cooperation. The government spokesman explained that the Prime Minister is hopeful that after Israel declares the establishment of a Palestinian State, the Palestinian grass movements will force their leaders to recognize their State. However, the Quartet has issued a statement this week that it isn't permissible to force a State on a nation that doesn't wish for one.
Israel's Defense Minister has started removing the soldiers from the Israeli territories in which the Palestinian State is expected to be erected. "In any event, today most of the warfare is conducted by computers and not by ground forces. And if a security problem arises - not to worry, the IDF will know how to respond," the Minister of Defense calmed the delegation of Bereaved Parents for a Secure Israel which met with him after a two week hunger strike.And talking about demonstrations, it seems a bit strange that we haven't seen any large demonstrations in Israel recently. "Try to understand," explained the director of Peace Now, "we don't have the money anymore. All our people are abroad, and one needs a lot of money to fly them all back. Besides which, if we want them to attend one of our demonstrations we have to take care to provide them with decent singers and adequate entertainment. The problem is that the generation of today isn't like the generation of yesterday. Once, we could pay in shekels and hire some well-known Israeli singers. But today? Who follows Israeli performers today? And do you know how much it costs to bring a band from abroad? They don't want to come anyways. So what we're thinking of doing, because it's a lot simpler, is organizing a demonstration abroad. Next week, in Las Vegas, at two in the morning, we'll have a huge demonstration against a Palestinian State - how can you force a State on a people that doesn't want one?! What sort of inhumane government does such a thing?! They think that with strength they can pull anything they want. For shame!"
The silence is deafening also among those who identify themselves with the opposite side of the political spectrum. "People are tired of demonstrations," the director of The New Yesha May-it be-Speedily-Rebuilt Council explained wearily. "We've been demonstrating for more than sixty years and what have we achieved from it? Nothing. The Sinai settlements were dismantled, the Gush Katif settlements were destroyed, the Northern Shomron settlements were destroyed, and then all the settlements outside the security wall were also destroyed. Not to mention Oslo 1, Oslo 2, and Oslo 3, the Road Map 1 and the Road map 2, and please don't forget Peace in our Days 1 and Peace in our Days 2 - we demonstrated against all of them and it didn't help."
So what are you doing? "We're working on two levels. On the one level, we're busy 'settling in hearts' - we've moved to the large cities and are very integrated with the local population. Today you can see us in nice percentages in the army, in the media, in the government and even in the academic world. On the other level, we strengthen our public via separate communities for those who wish to live in a holier setting."
Aren't you worried that this time a Palestinian State really will be established? "Nu, come on. For more than sixty years everyone has been talking about it. It's no sweat off my back - you can continue talking about it for another sixty years! But seriously, in any event defacto- they already have a State. Declaration, no declaration - what does it matter? Enough, I'm a busy person and you're wasting my time. I have more important things to attend. If you insist on talking about a Palestinian State, I can give you the phone numbers of several sub-organizations in The New Yesha May-it be-Speedily-Rebuilt Council who have turned this issue into their raison d'etre and will be glad to talk to you about their plans for the struggle."
The United States government has issued a proclamation this morning, that it will grant humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of Israeli refugees who have been flooding the country during the last several weeks. The U.S. has also requested that the Palestine government practice a policy of restraint regarding those Israelis still living in Israel. The Jewish organizations of Bnei-Brith and the Joint have expressed their satisfaction regarding this proclamation, and have promised to continue doing everything in their ability to help the Israeli refugees. "However," the Joint spokesman hastened to add, "it should be remembered that among the Israeli refugees are also Muslims and Christians, and we are also providing them with proper food, dwelling and prayer services."
What is the current situation in Israel? Those living in the cities were among the first to flee, and understandably so, after the Palestine Prime Minister announced that he was aiming his country's biological weapons at the large Jewish population centers in Israel. Some in the religious-Zionist community have also left the country, encouraged by their rabbis. "In Jewish Halacha (law) there is a principle that one violates one Sabbath in order to observe many Sabbath's in the future. Such is the situation today - we are leaving Israel temporarily so that we will be able to return and observe many mitzvoth in the future," explained Rabbi Sarah Ofek. However, most of the settlers have chosen to remain in their homes in Israel. "My mother was expelled from her house when she was twenty, it took ten years until the government built her a permanent home and a new community. Until the day that she died she continued believing that one day she would return and rebuild her house. We were raised determined that we would never be expelled from our houses no matter what!" said the daughter of a mother expelled from Itamar (a religious community in the Shomron).
The extreme Hareidis in Beit Shemesh, Ma'ah She'arim and several additional locations have decided to remain in Israel. Of their Rabbis, who asked to remain anonymous during the interview, tried to explain the logic of their decision: "Try to understand: during most of our existence, the Jewish nation has been under gentile rule. Nu, one manages. The Will of Heaven. But you secular, you apikorsim, wanted a State. And oy, what a State you created! Not only did you 'force the end' but you established a State of varmints, of public desecration of the Shabbas, of no modesty, of..."
Still, the State of Israel has dealt well by you... "And the State of Palestine will also deal well by us! We will continue living in our areas. They will allow us easy access to the Western Wall and some of our ancestors' graves. What do we care what they do in the rest of the country?" Yet the more moderate Hareidis have already left the land or are in the stages of leaving. "Look, it's a big merit to live in the Holy Land. But when one can't, one can't. There are large Hareidi communities outside of Israel, everything there is Kosher by mehadrein status, and we'll move there," said A.S. (38) who plans on moving with his wife and eight children to Boro-Park in two days.
The SELI (Hebrew acronym for the government Aid to Israeli Refugees committee) administration wishes to remind the public that according to the Evacuation Compensation Law 2068, clause 46 (c), in order to begin the process of compensation, one needs to first fill out the documents on their website. Copies of Identity Cards; children's school report cards; receipts for water, phone and electric bills during the past five years; private assessment for the house and property, and all the other required documents (complete list available on website) must be sent to their Manhattan address by registered mail. Expect an answer within ninety days from sending. The first two thousand applicants will win a free participation in a retraining course (gardening or tour guide. If there is a large demand, it will be possible to open a course for hydro-growing in Mexico or Nevada).
The senior citizens among us might still remember the legendary Israeli news reporter Chaim Yavin, and his immortal line "Gentleman, a revolution!" This evening, the State of Israel has certainly been witness to a revolution. For the first time in its one hundred and twenty years of existence, a religious prime minister has been chosen. It's general knowledge by now that the new Prime Minister, Benny Narkis, was born in the town of Sheder Shalom to which many of S'derot's residents voluntarily relocated after enduring twenty seven years of unceasing Kassam rocket bombardment. He attended the religious high-school Etzion for the Young, and continued afterward to the army where he served in the mixed combat units, in which he found his future wife. Following his release from the army, he felt a need to spiritually strengthen himself, and therefore combined his studies at the prestigious Savyon University with evening learning at the Kodesh Midrashiya. Narkis emphatically claims to be neither an extremist nor closed-off. "I grew up among the regular people, salt of the earth. True, I come from a religious family, was educated religiously and consider myself religious. But I view it as an ideal to be as open and accepting as possible. Indeed, due to the large secular emigration from the State and their low birthrate, in the last couple of years we've seen the enlightened religious public integrating more and more into the public services of our country. The citizens of Israel didn't vote for me because I wear a kipa; rather because they saw me as the right man for the job."
It still isn't clear who Narkis will choose to join his coalition. At first glance, it seems as though choosing the religious parties is an obvious step, but according to Narkis' liberal outlook it seems as though he will try to form as wide a coalition as possible. The NU-NRP has conditioned their joining the coalition upon the Prime Minister's signing a document in which he promises to rebuild the settlements of Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron which were destroyed sixty three years ago. Also, they demand that the Prime Minister formally annex Judea and Sameria, encourage the emigration of Israeli Arabs, prevent national manifestations of the Thai towns New Banthai and Ma Du Zi, and more. The document is a sprawling seventy pages and includes social, educational and security issues. The Prime Minister hasn't responded yet.
In the meantime, the celebrations continue. "What's the problem, finally someone with a bit of tradition!" rejoiced Avi Dagan from Tel-Aviv. "After the last Prime Minister, Abdul Hasan, anything is preferable. Would you have rather Marwa Pachima got in? I've heard tales about her grandmother that would make your hair stand on end!"
"The important thing is someone who understands the importance of the army," Deputy General Yuri Stern explained his reason for voting for Benny Narkis. "We hear a lot of nonsense that ever since we've signed a peace treaty with the State of Palestine, and gave the Arabs compensations, and sent over economic, construction and agricultural experts - everything is fine and dandy. They forget that without a strong army the Arabs will attack at once. And there are too many citizens who don't enlist - and I'm not just talking about the Hareidi. There's less of a problem with them. For fifteen years now we've had special units for them and whoever isn't suited for studying Gomorrah all day comes to us. No, my problem is with all those that don't enlist for no reason at all - just to have fun. And now we're suddenly hearing about religious pacifists! I ask you, where's the limit?! I'm glad that Benny Narkis got elected - he's got a good army background, and I know that he plans to deal with this issue and strengthen the army."
The President of America Julie McGaver has invited the new Prime Minister for a visit in the White House. The Prime Minister has announced his intentions of putting a laurel on Jonathon Pollard's grave during his visit, thus marking thirty years to Pollard's dying in prison. Currently, the Heroes-Home student organization is working to collect signatures on a petition demanding that the Prime Minister work to bring Pollard's bones to Israel. "Jonathon Pollard OBM dedicated his life to helping Israel. He was a Jew and he worked to save Jews. He dreamed of being freed from prison and coming to Israel. We didn't manage to achieve that during his life, and the least we can do is bury him in Israel. The thirty years memorial and a religious Prime Minister are two factors that are causing us to increase our efforts," said the head of the Heroes-Home organization, Levi Schalit (24) in a press conference yesterday.
We wish him much success.
Shifra Shomron (21) is a former Gush Katif resident-expellee and the author of Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim, (Mazo Publishers, 2007).
Visit Shifra's website www.geocities.com/nevedekalim