Border Control / Empress Shelly's new clothes
Gaining momentum in opinion polls, Labor leader Yacimovich takes extra care not to irk the ultra-Orthodox and the right wing.
The Labor Party opinion polls and the Haaretz-Dialog poll under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs published in Haaretz last weekend are confirming that sky-is-the-limit feeling radiating from the orbit of Labor Party chair MK Shelly Yacimovich. However, she does know that without the support of God-fearing politicos, 20 to 22 Knesset seats will leave her in the opposition. In order to put together a government, she will need to appear humbly on rabbis' doorsteps and also obtain a kosher seal of approval from the settlers. And if even that is not enough, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar will recommend to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she be given an important position in his next government.
In any case, what does she have to lose? The niche of the devourer of the religious has been taken by Yair Lapid. Let Meretz chair MK Zahava Gal-On occupy herself with Ariel, play around with peace, protest the firing of Dr. Adar Cohen as supervisor of civics studies at the Education Ministry and fight the McCarthyism at the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Yacimovich is playing in the Premier League. Yacimovich is not waiting for the last minute.
Two months ago she and the rest of her faction colleagues absented themselves from the vote on Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz's proposal to allow the operation of public transportation on the Sabbath. The explanation: "The transformation of the Sabbath into a holy day of shopping is a manifestation of the consumer culture that has taken over our lives. The price for this supposed freedom to travel and to shop on the Sabbath ... is paid by workers who have no alternative but to give up their weekly day off with their family." Moreover: "It is fitting that the Sabbath also be a day of rest for the bus drivers and a bit of a break from the racket of the buses would not hurt."
And what about the people of meager means, the people who cannot afford to buy a car or pay for a taxi? How will they get to the beach or to nurse a sick relative hospitalized on the other side of town on a Saturday? Yacimovich's soft stance on equality in the burden of military service ("It is necessary to stop the use of quarrel-provoking language the entire aim of which is to increase the animosity and the rifts only in order to make political gains" ) has made her the darling of the ultra-Orthodox street.
On the Behadrei Hadarim Internet site a few days ago was this comment: "All through the recent period, and despite the media incitement and the national trend of 'beat up on the ultra-Orthodox,' - the 'suckers' trend - Yacimovich has taken care not to be dragged in and she has again sent a message of unity in the nation."
The message was a condolence letter she sent to United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev upon the death of Rabbi Yosef Elyashiv. Yacimovich expressed her sorrow that she had not had the privilege of meeting with the leader of the Lithuanian (non-Hasidic ) ultra-Orthodox and of being exposed to him personally, and added that his passing constitutes "a harsh blow to the entire Jewish people."
Even had the rabbi lived another 102 years she would not have been accorded that privilege. The rabbi nixed any dialogue with the secular, for fear "they would be a bad influence on us." He said that Yacimovich and Sabbath-breakers like her were the reason for the spread of cancer. He ordered the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne'eman to publish a clarification to the effect that a paid advertisement of the non-profit organization Tzav Pius calling for conciliation and dialogue between religious and non-religious Jews was published by mistake.
A search for the term "Ariel" on Yacimovich's well-tended site and on her blog did not bring up the slightest smattering of criticism of the upgrading of the university center located in the heart of the occupied territories. Perhaps she recalled that in her visit to the settlement at the end of 2009 she said that "Ariel is a city in Israel established by all the governments of Israel throughout their generations," and added: "It is impossible to play a double game and to say that on the one hand this is a city we established and it is legitimate but on the other hand to punish it and not give it university recognition. It all depends on academic qualifications and nothing more."
So as not to annoy potential voters from the right, the Labor Party chair has not made contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. You won't catch her criticizing the fadeout of the peace process, the flow of money to the settlements and the settlers' harassment of Palestinians. It seems that in the new politics, just as in the old politics, one need not come out a saint.
An anthem for everyone
Two years ago Arab law students refused to rise in honor of the national anthem played at their graduation ceremony. Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran chose to seal his lips during the singing of "a Jewish heart yearns." Arab Israeli soccer players are under surveillance by spectators and the media when the national anthem is played.
Two months ago, 22 University of Haifa students dove headlong into the national anthem swamp. Prof. Edy Kaufman's students in a course on civil diplomacy, Arabs and Jews, Jews from the United States, Canada and Ukraine, and non-Jews from the U.S., Italy, Mexico and Belgium pondered the issue for two days straight.
The workshop gave rise to a number of creative ideas: the composition of a civil anthem in both languages that would relate to the central groups in Israeli society, to the history and the belonging of all of them to this land. The anthem would be heard at ceremonies of a civil nature, such as sporting events, while "Hatikva" would continue to be heard at events of a Jewish nature, such as Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Independence Day, which is a civil holiday, it would be possible to have both anthems. It was also agreed that prior to playing Hatikva, a passage would be read affirming the place of Arab citizens in Israeli society. After that the audience would be requested - in Hebrew and Arabic - to rise in honor of the playing of the Zionist anthem. If you will it, you can sing along.