Dispatches From the Israeli Sector

Today it is more worthwhile and more politically correct to use the phrase 'Jewish national,' or 'Zionist majority,' and to contrast it with 'a Haredi country' at the other extreme, than to stand behind the true meaning of Israeliness.

It has become difficult in this country to distinguish, at least on the visual level, between a ceremony to dedicate a new Torah scroll and a walk to the cabinet meeting by the prime minister (who is "good for the Jews" ) and his entourage of skullcap- and kerchief-wearers. And when the government's main diplomatic policy, aside from settling the territories, is demanding recognition of the state's "Jewish" character, the only surprise is that we are actually able to be shocked anew every time another revelation emerges about the State of Israel's theocratic nature.

A shock of this kind was produced by a recent survey indicating that most Jews in the Land of Israel are religious, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ), traditional or adherents in some fashion of faith and magical thinking, or at least traumatized by the Holocaust. Another was produced by the supposedly fateful battle between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger from the right, Moshe Feiglin, over "the face of the Likud."

Yet another stemmed from the dichotomy drawn by opposition leader Tzipi Livni between "the two completely different countries" that, she said, are fighting one another: on one hand, "a halakhic state [one governed by Jewish law] that is introverted and isolated, where women sit in the back of the bus," and on the other hand, "the Zionist majority ... the group that understands that the State of Israel is nationally Jewish."

If the word "Israeli" was missing (today it is fashionable to say "excluded" ) from all these shocks and dichotomies, it is not by chance. For it is clear even to Livni and her rival for her party's leadership, Shaul Mofaz, that today it is more worthwhile and more politically correct to use the phrase "Jewish national," or "Zionist majority," and to contrast it with "a Haredi country" at the other extreme, than to stand behind the true meaning of Israeliness: the umbrella definition of a Hebrew nation that, from a political and legal standpoint, is supposed to embrace us in all our factions and variations, including religious and ethnic ones, while separating religion from state.

Indeed, in the absence of a separation of this kind, there is no substantive difference between "the national Jews" and "the Haredim" other than some theological nuances, their lifestyles, and the trappings of the various political parties they form in order to divvy up the Knesset seats. Therefore, we do not have "two states" here, but a single ghetto-state that in essence rests on the same national-religious foundation.

In a situation like this - in which representatives of the secular, "state-oriented" parties are also pushed into gathering under the canopy of a warm, tribal "Judaism," one that turns its face to the past and is defined mainly by fears and traumas - it is not surprising that "Israeliness" has been kicked to the sidelines of the political field and become almost an outcast.

On all other days of the year, and on all other levels, Israeliness is de facto alive and well and flourishing. It is only when elections are approaching, and only in the political realm, that strange things begin to happen to this term. On one hand, "Israeliness," in the mouths of its enemies, becomes almost a derogatory term, like "Canaanite" was once upon a time. But on the other hand, even in the eyes of its supporters, it is limited purely to being anti-religious and anti-Haredi.

In other words, when talking about politics, Israeliness becomes a sector - and not just a sector, but a small, confused and nervous sector, someplace between the "Arab sector" and the "Haredi sector." And therefore, even its standard-bearers - those 15 seats "that just want to live," that are "in the center of the political map," and that wander around lost, decade after decade, looking for a free celebrity to lead them - even they no longer have revolutionary pretensions.

The most high-flown aspiration of the "Israeli sector" is to hold the balance of power in a coalition and rack up a few sectoral achievements: a bit more daylight savings time, some housing benefits, a few tax credits here or there, a few stipends. In other words, to be like Haredi MK Yaakov Litzman or his predecessor, Menachem Porush - but in Hebrew instead of Yiddish.

Changing the face of the country? Separating religion and state? Israelizing and normalizing our existence? Forget it. After all, we are all Jewish nationalists.

Read this article in Hebrew:?לאן נעלמה הישראליות