Another Tack: Drowning out reality

What would Ben-Gurion have said about Israel's infatuation with a supermodel and her Hollywood boyfriend?

During all his tenures as prime minister, David Ben-Gurion staunchly foiled the introduction of television into this country. In the long run, of course, it was like trying to stem the tide with kitchen cutting boards. All unbendable B-G could do was postpone the inevitable. Nevertheless, he was adamant that he knew best what was best for the rest of us, and "decadent" pop culture from abroad wasn't it. That's why he prevented the Beatles from performing here. He didn't want the Fab Four or enticingly escapist TV frivolities to "ruin our nation's youth," as he emphatically and uncompromisingly put it. In retrospect, it's amazing he succeeded for as long as he did - obviously a testament to his determination and to the nature of the society that bowed to his decrees. But also in retrospect, there's no doubting the prescience and perceptiveness of the intractable "Old Man." He wasn't entirely misguided to mistrust Israelis' ability to withstand the vacuous and vapid influx of imported trash bedecked in tinsel and dripping with schmaltz. He intuitively sensed that the idealism, defiance and Zionist selflessness he sought to inculcate in the emerging new generation would fast fade opposite the glitz. Indeed Israel's mainstream today shamelessly proves how right he was, how well he read its character, how on-the-mark his predictions were. His lack of faith in our strength of spirit was more than vindicated when Israelis recently went besides themselves over Bar (Rafaeli) and Leo (DiCaprio). Israel's foremost draft-dodger (the supermodel fictitiously married an older friend of the family to avoid military service) and her boyfriend "king-of-the-world" (of Titanic renown) attempted a private visit to her homeland. Fat chance. Reporters dogged them and paparazzi camped outside Rafaeli's family home. Newshounds followed the twosome to the Western Wall and Yad Vashem (nice that she took him there). Things got so out of hand that the police had to intervene. Cable showbiz busybody Guy Pines hired a helicopter to overfly the Hod Hasharon house, which the couple could occasionally exit only after resorting to ingeniously elaborate evasion tactics. To add insult to outrageousness, Pines proudly boasted of his initiative, stressing that his airborne harassment was a first in Israeli media annals. Nothing like it in 2,000 years. It was worthwhile to withstand two millennia of Diaspora tribulations just to reach the momentous exploit of liberated Hebrew pilots chasing a Daughter of Israel and her Hollywood beau. No wonder this wonder featured top-of-the-evening-news on some of our channels. BESIDES THE embarrassing failure to accord quiet, dignified hospitality and allow a guest to savor this land at leisure, there's the ignominy of losing our collective self-respect like a bunch of backwoods bumpkins awestruck by the arrival of a rich and famous hotshot. Neither Bar nor Leo merits the fuss (not that they asked for it). Moreover our local yokels hardly need lala-land glitterati to spark up an otherwise dull and dreary existence. Regrettably nothing here is ever dull. While B&L were trying to shake off gossip-mongering stalkers, little attention was paid to intelligence assessments that the brazen, loudly-spouted and undisguised enmity to the Jewish state by its own Arab citizens is now no less than a potent strategic danger, this time from within. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin's warnings about the monstrous magnitude of gunrunning into Gaza bothered the provincial populace even less. They've learned to ignore menacing portents and fatalistically wish them away. For six years Hizbullah advanced thousands of rocket launchers right up to our northern frontier, but serenity-seeking Israelis opted to take no notice of the Lebanon they fled. We retreated, and uprooted our most altruistic of compatriots from Gush Katif, just to be able to disregard what's hatched in Gaza. We'll deal with the consequences and whine about them later. Now we delight in B&L. Appallingly, everywhere Israel's very existence is called into question. No other state is likewise delegitimized, no matter what its present sins or congenital artificialities. Nobody questions the right of a separate North Korean entity to continue or that of Jordan, despite its unnatural conception as Perfidious Albion's imperialistic contrivance. But Israel's right to exist is never taken for granted and is challenged as never before - perhaps because we're so compliant about ceding the historical core of our homeland and accommodating genocidal enemies who call it "occupied territory." Perhaps when we demolished our own villages, we demonstrated to the unsympathetic international community than no Zionist creation in this land (its vintage notwithstanding) is permanent. The more conciliatory we become, the more transitory and illegitimate we seem. Average Israelis would rather not think about it. It's too heavy, too depressing. It interferes with the pleasures of life, even those attained vicariously by hassling swanky celebs. Hence, while the front pages stoked the Bar & Leo infatuation, negligible items on inside pages about the concurrent Europe-Israel Dialogue in Berlin created no stir. Why bother with the fact that it focused on the escalating uncertainty about Israel's continued existence? What a downer - unlike Bar and Leo! So what if even Germany's chancellor was perturbed enough to pledge sustained support for "Israel's right to exist." Clearly, Germany's existence is never controversial, but Israel's forever is. Ben-Gurion would have had a few pointed comments to make about that. He'd have sent homegrown post-Zionist denigrators and the world's left-wing academic demonizers packing. He could count on the scale of priorities of the nation's austerity-bred, star-starved youth to safeguard Israel's future. But decades of progress later, we gladly forget about tomorrow. What can compare with B&L and suchlike thrills and titillations?