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May Samra

A new Israel- again and again
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the moon was orange
may

January 2007 “Israel is not a country but an idea,” according to Moisés Naim, Foreign Policy editor. But Israel is not just one idea, it is one thousand, one million, six million ideas, all moving together in a display of singular energy that gives the country its character.

It is Artem, a young IDC student, born in Kazakhstan, educated for excellence, and now heading for the best universities the World can offer so he can “ fix” his country, Israel. In his grave voice he explains the plans he has and the power of making deals over making war. “But the Israelis will have another war because it’s the only way they can recover their lost pride and feel better about themselves.” About the Iranian threat he says: “Of course Iran is bluffing. It wants to be attacked. Then, its plan is to kick the US out of the Middle East and rise as a regional power. “ For him, the situation now is a remake of WWII, the US in the role of the UK, losing its status of first World Power and Russia taking over again.
“ In WWII the Jews got the worst of it. This time, if they’re not cautious, they’ll get the worst of it again.” Behind the lack of leadership- of which all, even the cab drivers- complain, there is the rise of that new politically driven elite, beautiful, polished, wise in spite of its youth, exposed to the best ideas the world has to offer, and eager to start working for what they think is right.

It is Shajar Ayalon, chief of police, twice married to the same woman, who thinks that the main problem in Israel is economic. “People are finding it hard to go through the month on their salary.” Shajar is a legend: the press tells he uprooted a small settlement and asked his officers to remove their name tags and answer whoever asked for their identity “Ani Shajar Ayalon”. He takes no pride in it, saying the story was manipulated and he just asked the officers to remove their tag names because they were sharp metal objects. Instead, he considers his best accomplishments being able to lower the accidents rate in Tel Aviv by raising the number of check ups for alcohol to a 100,000 and training a National Guard whose volunteers form one of the best forces in the world.

It is Ariella Cotler, a wonderful, lively Israeli- married to Irwin Cotler, former Canada's Minister of Justice - who thinks Judaism is missing from the Israeli identity and has to be restituted through a reform of the education system.
“ Maybe there’s a need to redefine Zionism today in face of what’s happening to us in terms of lack of values, in terms of creating a society of “me, me, me” and “my needs come first” and bring up the original vision of the Zionist leaders that spoke about mission, communal responsibility, national responsibility and “one for all”.

It is Dan Shueftar, a Haifa professor, who thinks the Arab Israeli relation is facing a dead end but tries to reassure me with a tale and a lot of Arabic jokes.

It is Mijal Negrin, fashion ambassador to the world, an amazing success story, having built in six years an empire in Israel and abroad, out of beads and lace, changing through her Victorian style the manlike ways of Israeli woman. Michal is a beautiful and lively brunette who greets us barefoot at home, in the best Israeli spirit proof that success is not separated from the simplicity of people satisfied with their accomplishments. Passionate about her art, she is not afraid to give her husband, Meir, an Egypt born Israeli, almost all the credit for their chain of stores that has reached Madison Avenue: “I asked him to believe in me and he did”. She has faith in the power of individuals (specially women) for achieving peace and is counting on her new cell phone and web site for communicating women the world over. Between the thousands of e-mails she receives every week, there are many Arab citizens who thank her for letting their real self emerge through her clothes and jewelry. At the moment, as a leftist, she is disappointed with her country “We sometimes feel like just taking a one way ticket to Amsterdam.” But the moment passes and they want to be here in this vibrant country and be part of it.

It is Shlomo Amar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi, who faces heads of state and clerics from other religions. The meeting takes part in his house, Jabotinski 30. When we get there, we think we mistook the address: it is a plain building, his name “Amar” on the same ringer than the other neighbors. Inside, the apartment is Spartan. At some point, a simple white curtain makes do of a closet. The Rabbi is seated on a Formica table, talking about how he would like to influence world peace through his inter religious meetings, gladly accepting our petitions for Berakhot, exuding kindness and sweetness.

The beach in Tel Aviv Saturday morning. Old men playing racket ball, bare-chested, to the sound of pop music. Families with portable chairs and picnic baskets. Beautiful women jogging. The Hertzliya Conference was last week and personalities from all over the country and abroad, ex chiefs of the CIA, Presidential Candidates for the US, ex head of States, former Mossad chiefs, all came to talk about the threats on Israel and offer their support. There have been talks about the very survival of the state of Israel faced with annihilation. Current leaders, ashen faced, have offered explanations for failures; future candidates have chosen to express optimism. But the waves keep on hitting the beach as if no Iran, no Hizbollah, no Hamas, no radical Islam existed. I think of Yehuda Amichai (The day my daughter was born, not a single person died): while I was in Hertzliya, no Jew was killed. All these people may be facing a genocidal threat, but they still go on with that incredible energy with their daily lives, probably thinking of the old Biblical saying: “There’s nothing new under the sun”. And this morning, on the beach, the sun is the most important factor in Israelis lives.


maysaco@yahoo.com