People will gather around on Saturday, as they do every year at this time, and talk about unity. The dialogue around Tisha B’av (a day of fasting in Judaism, marking the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the First Temple by the Babylonians and the Second Temple by the Romans in Jerusalem) are an Israeli custom, much like the reaction to an Israeli athlete winning a bronze medal in a Japanese sport in a Greek contest, with assistance from a Harry Potter-like Sports Minister who sends rabbinical blessings via text messages.
Israel is comprised of customs collected from other peoples: Ultra-Orthodox people wearing clothes copied from conservative Europe, Hamsas (anti-evil spirit amulets, usually shaped like human hands) imported from Muslims, and American films. Our civil war psychosis is home-made, though. And it’s what Israel fears more than anything.
Before our eyes, two countries are created: One well off, educated, with job prospects and a future to which they can look forward. The other is sliding father and father away from the Zionist story, and its ability to see that story as part of its future. Forget the old left-right, Ashkenazi-Mizrahi divisions – this new demarcation line will separate the educated from the uneducated.
This week, we found out that the IDF Chief of Staff has decided to give out scholarships to IDF combat veterans. I support this move. When I finished my military service, I – along with the rest of my unit – received a scholarship from the Ofer family (a famous family of rich Israeli businessmen. -ed). I assume I would have gone to college anyway, but still, this scholarship turned an entire generation of discharged veterans of one unit into academics. Why? Because it was free.
In similar fashion, I expect many IDF combatants to go and get a college education after they leave the military. Those who need to fill gaps in their matriculation exams and high school education will do so. And so, one side of Israel will be comprised of educated young people who used to be IDF combatants, settlers – who mostly aim to get a higher education, young kibbutz members, veterans of the IDF’s elite technology and intelligence units, and reservists who contribute a lot and pay taxes. The other side of the country will be comprised of home front soldiers who were given nothing important to do during their service, and of those who didn’t enlist at all. The educated will be pro-IDF and pro rule of law. The others will be rebellious and angry.
Those who fail to see the basis for this vision of division are welcome to take a look at their nearest Israeli site’s talkback section. It’s an important lesson in modern democracy. Last week, I wrote about rapper Yoav Eliasi, AKA The Shadow and his attacks against the Begin family. I wrote about how the leaders of the Likud party were staying silent, about their collective sluggishness in confronting a slug like The Shadow, and about the fact that he had nothing in common with the values of the Likud or any kind of national worldview (since then, four Likud members have spoken out).
I then wrote about Eliasi’s military service. I’m not in the habit of grading the meaningfulness of other people’s military service, but it’s hard to ignore that this is a man who served as a meaningless logistics worker, and now presumes to give advice to the IDF’s combat ranks. I suppose I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think that writing nonsense on Facebook constitutes a contribution to your country. All it does is make noise and scare some politicians (provided your following is large enough).
I received many responses from Eliasi’s supporters. Most invectives were written in bad Hebrew and included spelling mistakes. I sat down and read them for a whole evening. Some of them protested my supposed Ashkenazi condescension (I have no idea of the ethnic background of shadows) but the claims made about military service were the more interesting. To put a long story short, they claimed that there’s no real good reason for them to enlist or serve as combatants, since the IDF is filled with elites. This seems to be the opposite of stereotypical over-patriotism.
The specific words used are not important, and neither are the ethnic issues, whose rise in 2016 is due to cynical political convenience. What’s important is the gaps. Every country has its lower economic classes. Social networks expose these more widely. Israel’s advantage compared to other countries has always been its military, and the way it was seen.
In the United States, the key to success is – in many cases – having a financially well-off family and/or getting into a good, prestigious college. In Israel the IDF has been that ticket for many years. Sometimes combat service in the IDF can help you more than an MBA in Israel. You can grow up in a poor neighborhood, enlist and serve in the Golani infantry brigade, and turn your life and future around. I see this as our great advantage. A societal wonder. The problem is that of all Israelis reaching the age of 18, only half are enlisting in 2016, and these numbers are only growing.
One lesson we can learn from Tisha B’av is that we need to be aware and knowledgeable. Imbecility and broken Hebrew shouldn’t be a role model. Nationality (a central component of statehood) cannot hold up if its base is an inarticulate post on social media.