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June 02, 1995 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-06-02

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Fasten Your Seatbelt

nesspeople here. We're attracting people
of super quality, not just shleppers from
Lod or Ramle (the nearby working-class,
mainly Sephardi cities)."
A few years ago, Israelis were amazed
to learn that the gap between rich and
poor here was the second largest of any
developed country in the world, after the
United States. While Israel used to be a
nation mainly of clerks and laborers who
made roughly the same modest salaries,
now it is divided between the low-paid
wage-earners in the public and manu-
facturing sectors and the well-paid pro-
fessionals and businesspeople. As the
economy continues to move away from
high taxes, union power and government
employment, and -toward the free mar-
ket and "productivity," there will be an
even greater division between the elite
and the commoners.
Even the most h a llowed Israeli insti-
tution, the army, is losing its grip on the
people — mainly as a result of the pop-
ulation rise, but also because of the forces
of individualism, materialism and na-
tional battle fatigue. With the pool of
draftable soldiers expanding so fast, the
army doesn't know what to do with all
of them. So it's sending masses of them
home, especially "jobniks," or noncom-
batants, in the reserve. The "citizen
army" is no longer for all citizens.
"We hear about more and more people
getting out of reserve duty, we see that
so many of our neighbors and friends
don't do it, or do very little, and it makes
us feel like suckers," said reserve Capt.
Ofer Har-Gil, who started a lobby for
combat reservists. "My generation, and
the older guys, we grew up on the Six -
Day War, the Yom Kippur War, on hero-
ism. But the young generation is the
generation of Reeboks and computers.
Doing the army doesn't interest them as
much. In another 10 years they won't be
willing to do reserve duty at all."
All of the above comes under the head-
ing of what's been called Israel's "post-
Zionist" or "post-ideological" era. It seems
to suit most Israelis fine, except mainly
for the ultra-Orthodox and the ultra-
nationalists, centered in Jerusalem and
the West Bank settlements. It fits in
with what Defense Minister Shimon
Peres has declared as the "New Middle
East" — a region where Israelis and
Arabs live as neighbors, not enemies,
where education and technology count
for more than borders and weapons.
Mr. Peres' hoped-for Middle East de-
pends, of course, on Israel making peace
with the Palestinians. While Israel has
embarked on its post-Zionist period, one
that will continue into the next century,
I don't see that the post-ideological era
has dawned for the Palestinians. There
is a New Israel but I don't believe there's
going to be a New Middle East, because
I don't think Israel and the Palestinians
are going to make peace.
Until recently, the Palestinians' de-

mand was for an independent state.
Now, almost unnoticed, another demand
has been added — prosperity. In the ter-
ritories, in the Arab world, in the West
and in much of Israel, it is now agreed
that unless the Palestinians taste the
"fruits of peace" — economic advance-
ment — they will not be satisfied with
mere statehood. Their frustration, and
the radicalism and violence that come
with it, will only grow.
But how can anybody speak of pros-
perity after he has seen Gaza? On army
reserve duty in the heart of Gaza City
in the summer of 1990, it hit me that this
place always was a hellhole and always
will be, whether it's called Palestine or
Israeli-occupied territory. The people
live in raw concrete homes that look like
they've been bombed. There isn't one
traffic light in the whole Strip. The
nights were filled with the howling of
packs of stray dogs running through the
Across from our base, donkeys were
left to relieve themselves in a cemetery.





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