Will the real Israel step forward?

May 9, 2010

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With traffic obstructions, a great deal of noise, and burning fires, the largest ever demonstration in Israel passed without comment. Estimates put the numbers at over 500,000 people – a full 10% of all Israeli Jews in one place. Yet no newspaper or TV news station led with the story.

On Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day following Passover, the bonfires and celebrations by the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai were greater than ever. This strange festival, that breaks the solemnity leading to the giving of the Torah at Shavuot with tales of kabbalism, rebellions, masculinity, and fertility miracles, would seem to be big news for a huge swathe of Israelis.

Yet they hardly feature in the narrative that Israelis tell themselves or the world.

This begs two questions.

Will the secular rational nationalist narrative of Israel ever manage to integrate its oriental traditionalist religious element?

Which Israel do we really learn about from the press, the media, and the official ‘hasbara’ machines?

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