Article By Shoshana Vegh

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Failed Israeli Politics

We have been fortunate to witness the renewal of Jewish life in the Land of Israel. We have seen the revival of the Hebrew language, but according to some politicians, we have not developed an adequate educational system.

As if we lack scandals, these politicians have recently slandered us, Israeli teachers. Today, I wish to speak about the national-religious education as a system that we should envy. In my view, throwing dirt at the educational system is simply a case of seeking a scapegoat. The current sacrificial lamb is the education and its various branches. It is very strange to see professors and scholars joining the campaign that aims to discredit the educational system. It seems to be a new fashionable trend - to point fingers at the teachers.

No, I am not a settler and I don't live in a town that was built in the "occupied" (or "liberated") territories. I am a resident of the city of Netanya and I choose to speak about the modern version of the Biblical saga of Abraham being sent out of his home. I seek to differentiate between the voices of protest and the shrieks of incitement.

The national-religious youths who rose in their thousands, followed by many adults, are not any worse nor any better than any of their peers. They are part of our nation. They are youths who make the choices that seem right to them. Instead of going to nightclubs and dancing to the rhythm of trance music, these young people choose to demonstrate and protest for an ideology that we have all abandoned. We, the "nothing generation", remain with no answer to the ideology that is deeply rooted within the national-religious public.

I have no intention of writing an impressive essay that would amaze all with my political insights. I simply don't have such profound views and I don't pretend to wave them about. I only ask that we recognize the voice, which we have not managed to produce ourselves. This voice is a message that the country is shocked to hear, but it must listen to it. In a country where we repeat every twenty years the modern version of Abraham's saga, we shouldn't feel any surprise. Where else in the world do we see people being deported from their homes without the right to question the order or protest against it?

It is written in Genesis 12:1 - "Now God said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee." Abram, later named Abraham, is commanded to leave his country and his birthplace. The Biblical narrative expresses in this wording a type of empathy with Abram, who is about to change his geographical environment. The divine command is repeated several times, since a voyage to the unknown is not an easy order to obey. In the modern version of this paradigm, the Jews are also ordered to leave their homes and settle in locations that the authorities would dictate to them.

The state and its officials have sent these citizens to settle in a region that was not theirs. In a historical process that surely has significance, the state is currently commanding its residents to leave the land that they have cultivated and the homes that they have built. They are demanded to turn their backs on the places that they see as their homes and desert them. Can we ask them to leave and go out of their homeland without feeling anything? Can they abandon the homes that they have built and cultivated without feeling any pain?

It is strange to read articles that blame the education for the faults of the government. I find it peculiar to read articles written by politicians who claim that the educational system has failed. One such article claimed that "the struggle is not only over the disengagement, but also about the next generation. That generation has to learn how to live as religious people in a democratic state, whose moral and political rules apply to them just like they apply to any other citizen."

Why should we treat differently various voices of protest in a democratic state? Why did the left-wing protests die out? Where are the activists of 'Peace Now'? Why should the national-religious voices be sent to prison?

I wonder what will happen to the children and grandchildren of the youngsters who were thrown to jail for their faith. I wonder what will be the future of the descendents of these youths, who stopped the traffic with their bodies and burned car tires in their protest attempts. I worry about my children and grandchildren who are likely to receive no values in a secular educational system. I am concerned for my children and grandchildren who will not be educated to demonstrate and protest. If only the national-religious public is still capable of uniting around its ideals, I feel that the fault is political. It is not an educational problem, but a result of lack of leadership. It is the product of the deception by many generations of leaders.

As for the education, leave it to the educators who do their work quietly and modestly, without boasting about their achievements in the newspapers' headlines. There are still such people around.

Shoshana Vegh, 28/July/2005

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