Long-term planning is a Jewish value. How about in Israel?

May 22, 2019 by

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Matthias Stom

Genesis 25: 29-34 tells us about Esau stomping in after a hunt, absolutely starving. Jacob is cooking some lentils, thinking of the future. Esau wants to eat – now! Jacob wants Esau’s birthright, whose value will only come to fruition many years down the line. As we know, Esau does not hesitate. He sells his birthright for a bowl of lentils.

Jacob looks to the long term. Esau is more of the ADD type…

It feels like the whole world and Israel in particular has gone the way of Esau. Every news item must be fresh, every piece of information must be distributed immediately, both Peace and Messiah must arrive NOW.

Dan Ben David, head of the Shoresh Institution for Socio-Economic Research, has been calling for Israel to look beyond Esau’s view of security and corruption, and think more like Jacob about the deeper issues waiting beyond the corner.

Our health system is suffering from long-term decline. In the past two decades the number of Israelis dying from infectious and parasitic diseases has doubled – 73% more than those who die per capita of the same causes in the United States, and more than ten times as many who die on Israel’s roads.

Our transport infrastructure leaves us with three times as much traffic congestion than other countries our size – even though we have fewer cars on the road.

And don’t get Ben David started on education… Haredi schools do not study core subjects at all, and the academic achievements of Arab kids in Israel are way below par. These make up over 40% of our future adults…

All this has an effect on productivity. We’re far behind the rest of the developed world, and now over half of all Israelis don’t earn enough to pay income tax.

Can a country that needs extraordinary defense capabilities, cultivate a less-than-ordinary population?

The Esau in Israeli culture has served us extremely well. The world praises the spontaneity and creativity that spawned the Start Up Nation. Indeed the whole country has been the poster child for how a State can improvise brilliantly when faced with endless emergencies ever since its birth.

But perhaps the pendulum needs to swing back the other way?

Perhaps Jacob needs to take back the birthright once more?

Makom election poll reveals widening gap

 

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Makom election poll reveals widening gap between the political outlook of Israelis and diaspora Jews.

If the results of the diaspora poll were reflected in the Israeli vote on April 9, Israel would be a different country today, especially in regards to relations with Palestinians and issues of religion and state.

Israel Election Results Makom Parallel Election Results
Likud 35 (34)

Kahol Lavan 35

Shas and United 8

United Torah Judaism 8

Hadash-Ta’al 6

Labor Party 6

Yisrael Beytenu 5

United Right list 5 (6)

Meretz 4

Kulanu 4

Ra’am-Balad 4

Likely Coalition: Likud, Shas, UTJ, Yisrael Beytenu, United Right List, Kulanu =65

Prime Minister: Binyamin Netanyahu

Kahol Lavan 52

Meretz 27

Likud 15

Avoda 10

New Right 6

Hadash-Ta’al 5

Kulanu 3

Zehut 2

 

Likely Coalition: Kahol Lavan, Meretz, Avoda =89

   

 

Prime Minister: Benny Gantz

The Makom diaspora poll conducted in the month before the elections of the 21st Knesset collected responses from 594 Jews across the world, of which 43% from the US, 22% were from Canada and 13% were from Australia. Whilst the sample size was small, it revealed some fascinating results. With 76% of respondents being graduates of Israel programs, and 58% having a good or excellent level of Hebrew, the Makom sample aimed to reflect the political outlook of diaspora Jews who have close connections to the Jewish State.

The most standout result was the difference in support for the Likud in the two polls, where Israelis gave the party 35 seats, whilst the diaspora only gave them 15. In an election campaign where the issue that dominated all others was the suitability of Netanyahu to continue leading Israel into his fifth term as Prime Minister, the difference tells us much about how polarizing the Likud leader has become.

As David Horowitz noted in his post-election editorial for the Times of Israel, Israelis “knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, they knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists.  They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable.” Yet they still chose Netanyahu.

Israelis watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched. And they made their choice.

In the diaspora, the opposite was the case. The overwhelming vote for Blue and White, with 52 seats, followed by Meretz party with 27 seats, showed the diaspora were looking for leaders who would advance the peace process, open a kotel for all, allow civil marriage and public transport on Shabbat. These were key demands of the top two parties in the diaspora poll, who alone could have formed a coalition of 79 seats.

As David Horovitz noted, Israelis “recognized likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service. Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.”

In the United States, the response to the election poll was swift and unanimous amongst progressives. Less than a week after Netanyahu was elected, the ADL, CCAR, NCJW, Rabbinical Assembly, URJ, USCJ and many others wrote an open letter to President Trump expressing their concern about the policy implications of Netanyahu standing by his election promise to annex the West Bank.

The organizations who signed the letter explained that they “recognize that the current environment may not be conducive to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a permanent resolution.” However, they also believe that “action should not be taken by either side that would make an ultimate two-state solution unviable.” Finally, they respectfully requested that President Trump “affirm long-standing bipartisan consensus that the two-state solution is the essential path to an Israel existing alongside a future state of Palestine in peace and security and that you declare that the United States will not support any Israeli proposals to annex the West Bank, in whole or in part.”

The letter from the diaspora, criticizing a policy that is supported by the majority of the newly elected coalition, would have been unthinkable generations ago.

A neighborhood in south Ashdod, February 11, 2019. Credit: Ilan Assayag

One of the most interesting insights from the Makom poll came from comparing results to an identical question asked in The Times of Israel survey, which was conducted via online panels between February 24 and 27, 2019, among a representative sample of 708 likely voters in the upcoming Knesset elections.

Which of the following five issues do you think is the most important for the government to deal with?

Israeli Poll conducted by TOI Makom Parallel Election
Economic issues such as the cost of living, housing prices, employment 46% 20%
Security  21%   19%
Relations with the Palestinians, diplomacy and the peace process 11% 26%
Religion and state 5%   18%
Democracy, the rule of law and corruption 17% 17%

 

Whilst the Israelis care most about the cost of living, rising rental and house prices, for the rest of the diaspora, it is relations with the Palestinians and forwarding diplomacy that was most important in determining their vote.

These results were similar to the finding of two Pew surveys of Israelis and diaspora Jews in 2017, which found a huge gap in how economic problems are perceived as motivating the political attitudes of Israelis.

Many analysts point out that one of the key reasons the Likud did so well in this election, is the health of Israel’s economy, that has seen record low levels of unemployment and higher incomes in the past three years. Israel’s economic development would be largely unknown to most diaspora Jews, as it is not a topic that is often discussed in Israel programming.

In contrast, Religion and State issues such as marriage, conversion and the human rights of Palestinians come up much more frequently in Jewish education and social discourse of diaspora Zionists today, leading to the diaspora seeing these issues as much more of a priority.

Many diaspora Jews who care deeply about Israel would like to see their visions realized in the halls of the Knesset one day. Yet ultimately, only one of these polls matters in shaping the future of the Zionist project, which has become the most significant undertaking of the Jewish people in the last century.

Today, we live in a time when detachment from the Zionist project is greater than in the past where few took the existence of Israel for granted. The differences in outlook reflected in the two polls can serve as an impetus for improving Israel education and social media debate around issues such as the economy, human rights and religion. Whilst it’s healthy for there to be differences of opinions between Jerusalem and New York, Ontario or Melbourne, for the relationship between the communities to stay strong, a greater understanding of the needs and wants of both is essential.

Unemployment rate in Israel under Netanyahu’s rule from 2009-2019.

 

 

 

 

an example

 

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For example, setting up a quotation like this:

Inverted Commas / Quotation Marks: Also known as speech marks or quotes, inverted commas could be a single or double mark-‘z’ or “z”. These are mainly used to mark a speaker’s speech or a quote by a famous personality. You must have seen these in newspapers, in the plays from your textbooks and in your poems. Along with simpler punctuations like simple commas, English has created a specific use for the inverted commas.

So do you really have no influence over Israel’s elections?

April 21, 2019 by

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So do you really have no influence?

Jewish social media around North America has been responding to Israel’s election results. Irrespective of how devastated or delighted people seem to be, the underlying music has been similar: We can only observe from the outside – the decisions are in the hands of the Israeli electorate, not in ours.

This is not entirely true. There are two crucial areas in Israeli elections over which American Jewry – in particular non-Orthodox Jewry – does have a huge impact.

The Kotel, and the Palestinians.

Every pundit in Israel knows that when one is counting the parties in the pro-settlements Right-wing bloc, one automatically counts the Haredi ultra-orthodox parties. This is a correct analysis of the political reality in Israel, but has little to do with actual Haredi convictions about settling the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. As veteran Haredi politician Moshe Gafni has candidly explained: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a Haredi issue. The Haredi aim in government is to take care of the issues close to their hearts – they are generally willing to back any policy over the Green Line, just so long as their own electoral needs are met.

What are these needs?

There are, of course, budgetary needs for their impoverished supporters. There are great obstacles to the idea of drafting Haredim to the army.

And then there is the issue of diaspora progressive Jewry and their “obsession” with the Kotel.

Haredim will abandon any government that “gives away” the Kotel to “the Reform”. Put another way – any government that distances itself from the Kotel Agreement could receive Haredi support on other issues, such as the Palestinians.

See how you have an influence?

In Israel’s current political structure, it is extraordinarily difficult to address simultaneously BOTH Israeli religious pluralism AND the Two State Solution. As far as the Haredim are concerned, the latter can be bought by selling out the former.

How would you react if Israel’s leaders on the Left said – “We think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more important than religious pluralism. We are dumping the Kotel Agreement and reaching out to the Haredim. An additional 15 votes for the Left taken from the Right will enable us to make a deal with the Palestinians.”

Would you applaud? Would you rage? Would you grit your teeth? Would you shrug? (Or would you make Aliyah and vote yourself?)

Join Makom on a Unique Israel Experience: Kaleidoscope

 

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Join us November 2019!

Kaleidoscope is a multi‐dimensional exploration of Israel through a wide-angled lens: peace and politics; culture and co-existence; law and medicine; arts and science; business, finance and technology.

The program will be sophisticated and nuanced, experiential and informal. Participants will engage – creatively and critically – with some of the brightest minds and most important personalities in Israel today.

Visit www.makomisrael.org/kaleidoscope for itinerary and registration information.

 

 

 

 

Ad Kan! Up to here! Where do we draw the line?

April 2, 2019 by

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Last week a rocket was fired from Gaza, hitting a house in Mishmeret, some 20 miles North of Tel Aviv.

All hell broke loose.

All headlines and all politicians were going crazy, calling for revenge, for responses, for resolutions.

Why did this storm break out when it did? After all, since the last full-on conflict of 2014, Gazan rockets have been falling on Israel for many months, to say nothing of the incendiary balloons that burned hundreds of acres of Israeli farmers’ land throughout the summer?

The answer is clear to all: This time the rocket fell near Tel Aviv, in the Gush Dan metropolis.

Folks living on Kibbutzim near the Gaza border are pulling their hair out: What makes a rocket on Tel Aviv different from one fired at Kibbutz Beeri?

It is a painful question.

For sure, there are good reasons why the government avoids a full military response to Gazan attacks as much as it can. Any military response even approaching the strength its critics demand would – in the short term at least – lead to more Israeli casualties, as well as devastation on civilians in Gaza.

The question is why the line is drawn where it is drawn?

Bomb Sderot – we’ll issue warnings. Bomb Gush Dan – עד כאן! Ad Kan! (Up to here and no further!)

Here the question of security, To Be, comes face to face with the question of People: Which people’s security are we looking out for? Is every citizen’s security of equal importance?

Not a rhetorical but a real question – how might the US government respond if the Russians shot over a few make-shift rockets to Alaska? Or New York?

 

Makom’s Moishe House Israel Training – final places!

 

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The 4HQ Encounters Fellowship with Moishe House is moving into its second year! If you’d like to join this incredible program run by Makom in partnership with Moishe House, click here and find out more!

The 4HQ Israel Knowledge Quiz!

 

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Vote in the Makom Parallel Election!

 

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If you are not an Israeli Citizen and cannot vote in the actual Israeli election, vote in the Makom Parallel Election here! Check out Makom’s Homepage and blog for more information on the election.

Have a Say in Israeli Elections 2019

 

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Policies for Knesset election

With 47 parties seeking the support of 6.3 million potential Israeli voters on April 9, the race for the next Knesset has never been so fierce. For those connected to the Jewish State who live outside her borders, understanding the complex coalition system can often be quite daunting.

The election campaign focuses on four main issues that reflect larger competing worldviews:

  • Should the economy be managed in a social-democratic or free market manner?
  • Should the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate control the legal frameworks for religious expression and life-cycle events?
  • Should a Prime Minister facing multiple corruption and bribery charges should continue to lead the country?
  • Should Israel pursue a two-state solution with the Palestinian people?

 

Here at Makom, we see Israel as the greatest Jewish achievement of our generation with democratic elections being the greatest moment of Jewish self-determination, giving citizens the right to choose the future direction of the Zionist project. Unlike Italy which allows members of her diaspora to vote in elections, Israel only allows citizens living in the country on election day to vote (except for diplomats).

However, because the contest of ideas that has always been so much at the heart of the Zionist movement comes to the fore during campaigns, we strongly believe that it’s important for all who have an interest in the future of the world’s only Jewish state to have their say.

Through voting in the Makom Parallel Election, you will be participating in a global poll determining opinion from diverse communities about the direction of the greatest Jewish enterprise of our lifetime. After April 9, we will publish the results of the Makom Parallel Election, side by side with the actual results. This will hopefully create a valuable conversation starter for Israel educators around the world who are looking at what we have in common, and the issues that divide us most.

Policies before politics

In putting together this initiative, we felt it important that unlike much of the media hype around this campaign focused on tweets, polls, personalities and hypothetical questions, we would create a policy table outlining where all the parties with realistic chances of being in the Knesset stand on issues that matter.

Putting this table together was very challenging, as many Israeli parties don’t list specific policies on most issues, or change their views once elected due to coalition discipline which often forces them to vote for policies with which they oppose in order to have part of their agenda passed by other parties in the coalition.

By reading this table, and posting any questions you have on the Makom facebook page, we hope to be a valuable resource for you in understanding these elections, and being part of the conversation that sees Israel in Real Life.

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