5 Conflicts in ISRAELI society (2021)

5 Conflicts in ISRAELI society (2021)

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In this video I’ll be talking about the main  conflicts in Israeli society: Jews, Israeli Arabs,   left, right, ultra-orthodox,  secular, Mizrah, Ashkenazi.   I’ll be stepping on all the mines of Israeli  society and adding my personal thoughts. I think that in tourism today, especially in my  field of travel vlogs, people mostly talk about   what I like to call ‘soft  tourism’: nice boutique shops,   great places to have a coffee, and  recommendations and tips of all sorts.   Hardly anybody in the tourism industry has  anything to say about conflicts because   you might have someone who disagrees with you or  gets angry, and since we all depend on likes and   subscribers, it’s just not smart to speak  about sensitive topics. Thank god I’m here :-).

I don’t know about you, but if I travel  somewhere, let's say to Barcelona,   I’m sure there are plenty of great cafes,  but you can find great cafes everywhere.   If I’m going there, I want to learn about the  people, about that particular society and what   people are dealing with. Is the tension between  Barcelona and Madrid a big issue? Is the tension   ethnic or maybe religious or economic? Is the  tension there like in other places in Europe, like   Scotland and England, or is it totally different? I’m making this video because conflicts are   the cracks in society that let you see right  through it and help you understand it better.

Now we live in a time when you’re only  allowed to criticize your own group and   when you talk about other groups you’re only  allowed to say: Mmm, they make great food.   I don’t like it, I hate political correctness.  I love criticism and critical thinking. Don’t   talk to me about the weather.  Make me think, challenge me,  

and you are more than welcome to criticize me as  a Jew, as an Israeli, as a tour guide, as a man,   as a modern father, and even as a Britney Spears  fan… And if I get offended then I will open my   ID card, see that I am not a 6-year-old anymore  and get over it. Now seriously, I will take the   risk of being offended if it means I get the  chance to hear something true and meaningful. I’m saying this because there’s a good chance that  some of you will not like what I’m going to say   here, and that’s ok. I would love to read your  comments. But be fair and don’t go out of your   way to try not to understand what I’m saying.  This is a short video about a huge topic and   I will make generalizations. Just to make sure  we’re on the same page, here’s a quick example:   If I say that men are more violent than  women, does it mean that I hate all men?   No. Does it mean that all men are violent? No.  Does it mean that no women ever use violence? No.  

If I say that men are more violent than women I  simply mean that men are more violent than women. So, let's get started. The first conflict is the  national and religious one that exists between   the Jews and the Arabs. Israel's  population is about 9 million,  

7 million are Jews and 2 million are  Arabs. Now to be clear here, I’m not   talking about the Palestinians, who are Arabs  living in Gaza and the West Bank under the control   of the Palestinian Authority. I’m talking about  Israeli Arabs, Arabs from Jaffa, the Galilee,   the Bedouin in the Negev Desert. Arabs who  have been living in Israel since 1948 and have,   as we say in Hebrew, a blue I.D., like me. The  tension is obvious. Israel defines itself as being   Jewish and democratic and the Arab minority is not  Jewish, most of them are Muslim, and they are not   really democratic. This is not only a theoretical  schism. Many Jews consider the Israeli Arabs   a threat as they have relatives in enemy states.  On the other hand, the Arabs see themselves as a  

minority that suffers from discrimination that is  rooted in the definition of the state. Moreover,   until the establishment of Israel, the area  covered by the land of Israel was ruled by   Muslim empires for 800 years and now the Arabs  find themselves a minority in a Jewish state. But, and this is something you won’t hear in the  news, if you give the Israeli Arabs the option   of living under Palestinian rule, they choose to  stay a part of Israel. This isn’t a theoretical   scenario either. People talk about swapping  land, making the Israeli settlements in Judea   and Samaria a part of Israel and Israel giving  Arab settlements over in return. But the Israeli  

Arabs don’t want to do that. The unspoken truth  is that Arabs have a better life in Israel,   the Jewish state, than in any other  Arab country in the Middle East. Another part of the problem that has been in  the news a lot lately is the violence within   Israel’s Arab society. The Israeli Arabs  blame Israel for many years of neglect and  

for not providing budgets for education and  infrastructure, and the Jews accuse the Arabs   of not cooperating with the police. We also  accuse the Arab politician who sits in the Israeli   parliament of not taking care of internal issues  relating to Arab voters and only aligning with   the Arab countries that want to destroy Israel. In some areas the Israeli Arabs are becoming more   Israeli and in others, namely on a political  level, they identify themselves as Palestinians   and not Israeli Arabs. On a national level it  seems there’s no solution, but on a personal   level you can see that Jews and Arabs, while not  living in the same villages or neighborhoods,   do work together and not only that, the vast  majority define it as a positive environment.

The second schism is an internal Jewish  conflict: secular vs ultra-orthodox  Jewish society in Israel can be divided into  three parts: secular, which accounts for about   45% of the Jewish population, national  religious and traditional, which is around   35%, and very religious and ultra-orthodox,  which is about 20%. Secular Jews are Jews who   don’t wear a kippah, a yarmulke,  whereas the national religious   do wear a crocheted kippah, usually with a  pattern on it, and the women wear skirts,   while the ultra-orthodox wear a black kippah  under a black hat and often a black suit. There are many issues to discuss here but I will  start with the main question: what should Israel's   character be? More Jewish or more democratic?  Here you need to understand that being Jewish   is not only a religion but also who you are.  Jews who are totally secular might say that they   don’t believe in god, but they won’t say that  they’re not Jewish. The ultra-orthodox will say   that the Torah, the bible, kept us together as a  nation and that Jewish rule should apply in the   Jewish state, meaning no public transportation on  weekends, more separation between men and women in   public places, no women in positions of  power, no democracy, no unkosher foods.

This conflict is not only spiritual or  philosophical. It is also political.   Although the ultra-orthodox only  make up 12% of the population,   they enjoy a great deal of political  power. The reason for this is that   both the leftwing and rightwing parties need the  orthodox parties to be able to form a coalition.   So they enjoy great privileges: they don’t have  to serve in the army like us, which is very very   unfair, that we need to serve the country and they  don’t; we pay for higher education and they don’t,   they pay less city tax. It’s not that the law  states that the ultra-orthodox should pay less  

but the rules are tailor-made for them. They get  a 60-90% discount on their city tax because they   have a lot of children. I don’t think there is  any country in the western world that gives an   80% discount for having a lot of children.  They pay much less for kindergarten. And so on. Another crazy thing is that 50% of ultra-orthodox  men don’t work. Instead of working they study the   Jewish books. Now you might wonder how they manage  to sustain themselves without working? So first of   all, they live in poverty. Secondly, it’s the  women who work. So the women need to raise all  

these children and go to work on top of that.  Because half of ultra-orthodox men don’t work   and don’t pay taxes, they are a big burden on  the economy and the people that do pay taxes. Perhaps it’s my socialist, middle-class  upbringing, but I believe that going   out to work is important not only to support  your family, which is pretty fundamental,   but also because there’s an inherent value in  the work itself. Why is it that 100 years ago   half the children didn’t make it to the age of  five and today more than 99 percent do make it?   It’s because there are workers who clean the  streets, who look after the sewage system;   there are researchers, doctors, electricians. And  the ultra-orthodox sit and think the world keeps  

on turning because they’re sitting  and studying their Jewish books. In answer to this criticism, they would say  that I’m going against the Torah. And to that I   would say two things. First, no - you can study  the Torah and work, as ultra-orthodox Jews   in the U.S. do. And secondly, they  don’t have a monopoly on Judaism.

Many years ago I lived and worked with an  Amish family. One of the best experiences   of my life. And the mother asked me  about Israel and about orthodox Jews.   And she asked me if they live in cities, and I  replied that most of them live in cities like   Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, and then  she asked: So how do they get to their fields? I   absolutely love this question. She was so  off and at the same time she got straight to   the point. If you read the Bible, it’s all  about the Jews working the land of Israel. King David was a man of action, a passionate  man. He was a warrior who didn’t speak Yiddish   and tell his wife to sit at the back of  the bus. The ultra-orthodox speak Yiddish,  

dress in black suits, which don’t suit the Israeli  weather, and even the names of the Hasidic groups,   which are a subgroup of the ultra-orthodox,  are Gur, Sanz, Satmar, Belz… all names of   cities in Eastern Europe. Cities that have  nothing to do with the Land of Israel.   Now the rabbis that lived there were great  rabbis, but choosing to fly at Rosh HaShana, the   Jewish New Year, to the grave of a rabbi, no  matter how important he was, instead of being   with your family in the land of Israel is very  very far from what the Bible is actually about. My main point here is that not only do  they not have a monopoly on Judaism,   but their way of practicing Judaism  went too far in the wrong direction. And here I come to the biggest challenge  that Israel will face in the decades to   come. It has nothing to do with the  issues with Iran or the Palestinians.  

The challenge is to integrate the Arabs and  the ultra-orthodox, who are both fast-growing   poor populations and not really democratic, into  Israeli society. If this doesn’t happen, Israel   will become a poor, fundamentalist and failing  country like the other Middle-Eastern countries. The next conflict is one that you probably  recognize from your own country: the conflict   between left and right. Until the Six-Day War in  1967, the main difference was the economic one:   socialism vs the free market. From the 70s  until ten years or so ago, the main difference   between the two was that the left was more  willing to give up land in the name of peace   while the right was against it. Today,  the majority of Israelis don’t believe   that peace with the Palestinians is possible.  And nowadays there isn’t one big leftwing party  

and one big rightwing party, but rather many  small parties with small differences between them. By the way, this is one of the reasons why  I’m making this video. When I fly to Germany   so many people want to talk about this topic,  but for me and lots of other Israelis it’s like   talking about something from the 90s. Today  even the lefties don’t believe that peace with   the Palestinians is possible. In a way it’s  like me saying to a German: I’ve heard about   this young female politician, Angela Merkel.  I think she’ll be an important figure one day.

In dealing with this issue, the German media  tend to always talk to the same smart Israelis   who have interesting things to say but are all  positioned from the far left to the extreme left   and don’t represent the majority of Israelis. So  if you are from the German press and you want to   interview an average Israeli, then talk to  me. Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch :-). Now we Israelis want peace. Ask any Israeli,  even someone from the extreme right, if they have   anything against the Egyptians or Lebanese, if  they want Egypt to be annihilated and destroyed,   and no one will say they want that.  But ask the average Egyptian or Syrian  

what they think about Israel and  you’ll get a different kind of answer.   I see it on my channel. It doesn’t  matter what kind of video I upload,   it could be about hostels in Tel Aviv, and 80%  of the comments left by people with Arab names   will be railing against the existence of  Israel. If an Egyptian vlogger made a video   about the best hostels in Cairo, I can guarantee  that no Israeli would leave hateful comments.

When we Israelis see that the Arab  Spring turned to an Islamist winter,   that no Arab Muslim society succeeded in  creating a democracy with human rights...   When we see what they’re doing to each other  in Syria: Assad, Al-Qaeda, Al-Baghdadi, Isis...   When we see that the Lebanese hate us as much as  they do even though we have no border issues with   them. As much as we Israelis want peace, as long  as the Arab side doesn’t accept our existence as   a Jewish state, as long as books like Mein  Kampf are bestsellers in the Arab world,   as long as they teach their children  to become shahids (or martyrs),   there will be no chance for peace. Golda  Mier, the Israeli prime minister in the 70s,   said that peace will come when the Arabs love  their children more than they hate us. Sadly,   large parts of Arab Muslim society  in the Middle East are not there yet.

If you want to talk politics with Israelis,  my advice is not to start with this topic.   I’ve made two videos that sum up  the Israeli view on this topic.   I will leave the links below. Besides, I’ve just  given you enough other topics to talk about. The next tension is between the Ashkenazi  and Sephardic Jews. This is a much   less serious tension than the other three  that I’ve mentioned but it does exist.   I have to say that I’m ashamed and  embarrassed that I need to talk about it,   but just because I don’t like it,  it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

The Ashkenazi are Jews whose ancestors were born  in Europe while Sephardic Jews have ancestors who   came from Arab countries. Now I think it’s  perfectly OK to be proud of your heritage   but if the birthplace of your grandmother still  plays a significant role in your life, then man,   you haven’t accomplished much in your life.  There are lots of marriages between Jews from   these two groups, so the tension is decreasing,  but in general Ashkenazi Jews are more extreme:   either totally secular or ultra-orthodox and  Mizrachi Jews are more traditional. Ashkenazi   Jews are wealthier than Mizrachi Jews but  again, it is getting more and more mixed. The   only instance of segregation is ultra-orthodox  Jews not wanting to mix with Sephardic Jews.

The last tension involves the biggest  generalization I will make and one that   sums it all up. This last tension exists  between the center of Israel and the periphery   or, in other words, the difference between  the Tel Aviv area and the rest of Israel.   Tel Aviv and the cities to the north  of Tel Aviv are richer, more secular,   leftwing, and open to the world. The rest of  Israel is poorer, more religious, rightwing,   and less open to the world. I’m only adding this  as this is a travel vlog and as a tourist moving   around the country you’ll see the difference  between the Tel Aviv area and the rest of Israel. Now although I’ve been talking about the cracks,  about what divides us - Jews and Arabs, secular   and ultra-orthodox, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, I think  that at the end of the day almost all Israelis   know that the labels we give ourselves and others:  Jew, Arab, leftie... tell only one side of a  

multi-sided story and nobody can be defined  as being just rich or just religious or just   gay. Israelis, I think, do see the human side.  There is almost no political violence between   the different groups, no demonstrations that  end with broken shop windows or people lying   wounded in hospitals. I think there is a basic  understanding that no one is going anywhere   and tomorrow morning we will all still  be here, whether we like it or not. That’s it. As I said at the beginning, making  these kinds of videos is not a particularly   smart thing for me to do as a creator, but I  really think that it’s important and I hope you   enjoyed it and learned something. If you did,  please hit the like button and write a comment. And one last thing, take a moment to think how   you would describe the conflicts  in your country. It’s no easy task…

See you next week. Yalla bye.

2021-10-04 00:37

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