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November 04, 1994 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-04

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Israel's Coming
Identity Crisis

Labor Party's Avraham Burg sees peace creating the
dilemma of Israelis no longer defined by their


vraham Burg confides inition of themselves and they
that he is "scared to death" evaporated. We in Israel had an
about the peace process. immunity against assimilation,
of because Mr. Burg — mixed marriages and evapora-
number three on the Labor slate tion."
after Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon
But peace, says the only Labor
Peres in the 1992 elections — is Knesset member who graduated
against the deals made so far from the national religious B'nei
with the Palestinians and the Akiva youth movement and still
Jordanians, or has lost faith in wears a knitted yarmulke, could
his leaders.
change all that.
The 39-year-old Knesset mem-
"We, as Israelis, will face a sit-
ber was an early Peace Now cam- uation where we'll have to define
paigner. In February 1983, he ourselves. We shall have to ask
was one of 10 demonstratorS ourselves, 'Who are we? Jews?
wounded outside Prime Minister Middle Easterners? People with
Menachem Begin's Jerusalem of- a new Israeli identity, not the tra-
fice when a right-wing fanatic ditional Jewish one? How do you,
flung a grenade into a vigil Avraham Burg, define yourself
without the help of the outside
All this in an age where the
global village, CNN and MTV,
Coke and Nike, has invaded the
Jewish state.
"For an observant Jew like
me," Mr. Burg shudders, "for
whom the taste of life was my
faith, my morality, my tradition,
my normative way, it is a shock-
ing experience to go into a school
and ask the children what is the
taste of life. The answer is always
Coca Cola.
It is a stronger symbol of com-
munal longing than my tradi-
tional one."
Knesset Member Avraham Burg: The
As if brooding on the future of
taste of life is now Coke, not religion.
Israeli Jews were not enough, Mr.
against the Lebanon war. No, Burg also frets about the future
what frightens him is the dilem- of the Middle East. Israel, he con-
mas peace will pose for Israelis. tends, cannot disconnect itself ge-
We talked less than a week af- ographically, economically,
ter Israel and Jordan sealed their politically or culturally from its
peace treaty in the gritty Arava region. But where is the Middle
desert. It turned rapidly from a East going?
conversation to a seminar. Mr.
Israel, he maintains, inherit-
Burg, father of four and chairman ed the legacy of three revolutions:
of the Knesset education com- the French (civil rights), the Eng-
mittee, is a natural teacher. Like lish (industry, one's relations to
the best of them, he offers more one's environment, one's work
questions than answers.
and to nature), and the American
"We are now walking the last (one's relationship to democracy).
steps of the good old world we
"Modem Israel," he says, "went
knew," he says. "That world was through all three revolutions.
a world of known enemies. Our
The Middle East did not. It is
identity was defined from outside. still a pre-revolutionary region.
I knew who I was because I had It is like the Roman empire with
an external enemy.
one world inside the walls and
"Whenever 'Who is a Jew?' was the barbarians outside. Espe-
debated in the Knesset, some- cially if you add the qualitative
body always said Hitler knew edge between the within-the-
who was a Jew. The enemy de- walls world (high-tech and infor-
fined who I am. In recent years mation) and the outside-the-walls
American and other Western world (low tech and lack of infor-
Jews had less and less of an ex- mation).
ternal enemy. Half of them didn't
Israel will be like a bridgehead
find a i alternative, internal def- of Western culture in this world.


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