The disintegration of Israeli society

By OZ ALMOG
May 17, 2016 21:44
2 minute read.
An Israeli soldier holds a flag next to the grave of a fallen soldier

An Israeli soldier holds a flag next to the grave of a fallen soldier during a ceremony ahead of Memorial Day. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Do we still constitute a society? Ostensibly, we are all Israelis. We all carry a blue ID card; we communicate in the same language and experience unifying experiences. The polls, too, tend to indicate a sense of shared destiny and an emotional bond with the state.

In international contentment surveys, Israelis continue to be given very high grades, with our national identity being at the very apex of the identity scale.

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Even Israel’s Arabs, who traditionally feel alienated from the togetherness of Israeli society, have developed a distinct Arab-Israeli identity and a kind of civil ease in their day to day lives within the confines of the Green Line, which overshadow any feeling of deprivation. The ultra-Orthodox, too, who for decades lived in isolated ghettos of their own, feel themselves increasingly connected to the Israeli experience.

But there’s a dark cloud hovering over all this pastoral harmony as Zionism’s moral and emotional common denominator grow weak and what was once naïve Zionism is fading with time and morphing itself into bold cynicism.

Admittedly, the migration balance (immigrants vs.

emigrants) has been improving over recent years and Israel is still an attractive option for Jews to live in (mainly as a result of the recent waves of anti-Semitism), but the emotional “Inner Emigration” is growing stronger, which means that the broad collective is disintegrating.

The Internet, which echoes the outlooks and opinions of all the various social groups, reflects and, apparently, also intensifies, the power of segmentation, tensions and disparities in Israeli society. The crisis really is deep.

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Paradoxically, even those segments where the ideological ties to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel are particularly stron are becoming increasingly introverted.

Only a few weeks ago, the weekly Makor Rishon published a survey with this alarming statistic: above 30 percent of Israel’s National Religious population chooses Channel 20 (which focuses on Jewish and Israeli heritage) over the popular, eclectic Channels 2 or Channel 10, indicating that the National Religious community is experiencing a drop in empathy for broad sectors in Israeli society and withdrawing into a bubble of its own.

They are not the only ones. Israel is becoming more of a federation of subcultures and less of a society with a single objective and destiny. Although, at the same time, the diffusion between social groups has grown and seems to be obscuring the cultural tensions and differences and many people nowadays hold varied identities and worldviews.

Still, rather than creating a new social melting pot, this “intermingling” is disintegrating, fragmenting and intensifying the rift.

The crash of the country’s mainstream is also tied to processes of individualism and globalism, alongside growing distrust of the establishment. Just consider the number of Israelis today who detest their prime minister or the leaders of the opposition and how many are convinced that basic social justice is not being upheld in their country. Outwardly (in surveys, too) Israelis are crazy about their country and are proud of it, but in fact, the extended Israeli family is falling apart.

As the flash and noise of fireworks and public singalongs brought this year’s Independence Day to an end, we are faced, once again, with the bitter truth: Israel is turning into a country with a lot of pseudo-patriots who love themselves and their immediate group and hate everybody else.

The author, a professor, is an expert on Israeli sociology and history and a leading commentator on current Israeli society.

Translated by Ora Cummings.

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