Now that school is back, we can start to sum up this past summer. It was a very bad summer for Israel. The three words that were hanging above it like a dark cloud and burdened us no less than the heat were: “What happened to us?”
As opposed to what we expected, the feeling that Israel is drying up and that the ground it stands on is shaking does not stem from the water crisis. Yet just like with the water crisis, when there is no guiding hand from above and no planning for the future, the only thing to gradually rise is our level of anxiety.
The Jews are an ancient people but the Zionism that prompted the State of Israel’s establishment a relatively young movement and the Israeli people that was born as a result is truly a baby. It’s natural that in the past, given the mentality of the young Israel, the future was perceived as “generations ahead.” Yet the deep flaw is that in the maturing Israel we have not yet internalized the fact that “generation” has become a brief term of less than 10 years, and that the turning point we need to prepare for is right around the corner.
While there are several institutes that research the future of the Jewish people, the State of Israel rushes forward without a GPS. This conduct is reminiscent of the current TV ad showing an alarmed young girl who got pregnant after a one-night stand, as her friend tells her: “Relax, sister, why are you stressing? Just take the day-after pill.”
And so, instead of preparing to avoid “unwanted pregnancies” ahead of time, we make do with pulling out an instant pill that will make the results disappear. You can ask any minister of senior official what he encounters when he reaches the top of the pyramid. Everyone is amazed that the enterprise called the State of Israel is working somehow. Everyone admits that everything is being managed through impromptu solutions and that the thinkers behind “reforms” and t true masters are the low-ranked officials. There is not sort of planning from above or future strategy.
What kind of Jewish State?
Look at Prime Minister Netanyahu, for example. While he views the Palestinian recognition of a “Jewish State” as the essence for our existence here, the question of which Jewish state he sees is not even being discussed. Are we talking about a Jewish-Israeli state, or a Jewish-haredi state?
Data elicited by the Taub Center revealed that only 39% of Israel’s million and a half students study within the national education system. In only nine years, despite the massive immigration from Russia, the number of students in the national system dropped by 3%. Meanwhile, the number of students in the haredi education system skyrocketed by 51%.
The implication of this is clear: In the very near future, most Jewish Israeli children will study in haredi schools. Or as one of the haredi protestors in Jerusalem yelled out: “We’ve got patience. In any case, within 10-20 years we’ll be deciding what will happen here.” Is this the kind of Jewish state Netanyahu seeks for his children, or rather, does he want a state whose common denominator is Israel and Israeliness?
Future implications of the fact that at this time already nearly 50% of Israel’s students study outside the mainstream, in the separate haredi and Arab systems, are immense: In educational, social, economic, and political terms. But after all, this demographic process was expected just like the declining water level of the Sea of Galilee. The consternation and anxiety do not stem from it, but rather, from the realization that the great change is already here and nothing is being done in order to address its implications on our future and our children’s future.
There is no discussion even on how to ensure that the State of Israel will remain an Israeli entity that will not deteriorate into Third World status.
What happened to Israelis this past summer is similar to the old fable about the frog. If you put it inside a pot of water being gradually heated, it will cook up until it dies, but if you put it into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. The boiling point made us jump. The problem is that the only option currently offered to us is to slowly be cooked in the other pot.