The State of Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic country. Yet, in practice it is gradually becoming The State of Bibi. All that happens here revolves around him, and only him, and he has become a national obsession for his supporters as well as for his detractors. It sometimes seems that we are all obliged to align ourselves with either the “There’s only Bibi” or the “Anyone but Bibi” camp, otherwise our very right to exist is put into question.
We are faced with two alternatives: First, to believe that Netanyahu is the king of Israel, Sara is the reigning consort and their dog Kaia has never pooped on the sidewalk, all these investigations are part of the Left’s persecutions and attempts at a political coup, their son Yair gave them a knock-out blow on Facebook and Netanyahu is absolutely correct about the investigations that ‘there won’t be anything because there was nothing’. If you don’t agree with these claims, you are left with only one alternative. You have to believe that Netanyahu is a failure, a liar, a person lacking in skills who only knows how to sow disunity, that he is guilty until proved innocent, corrupt to the core and an existential threat to the State of Israel, the facts are irrelevant, and the only thing that matters is that the authorities indict him, forcing him to resign.
It is a black and white scenario, either you identify with those who demonstrate outside the Attorney-General’s home every Saturday night or with those who cheered Netanyahu at the Likud rally in Tel Aviv. Either you believe that Netanyahu gave an Erdogan-like anti-democratic speech or that his every utterance is a pearl of wisdom.
The two camps continue to be at loggerheads, trying to overpower the opposing side, but meanwhile so many other issues have been pushed aside. I am talking about the truly important matters. With all due respect to the Netanyahu’s and their lifestyle, questions of foreign policy, security, the economy, social issues, Judaism, health, culture, and the judicial system are more important. We can no longer hold any serious discussions about the matter in hand, every issue is judged solely through one prism – how does it affect Bibi? Will it do him good or harm him? Sometimes, we also investigate whether Sara is involved too and that is the depth of our discussion. Netanyahu is far more than just a Prime Minister, he is the drug we are addicted to. It’s unbelievable to observe how much energy is expended on this man. Adulation and admiration versus scorn and fury.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the reason why people like me who can see both his plusses and minuses are somewhat uncomfortable at present, unable to find their place in either camp.
I met Lea and Simcha Goldin on Sunday at the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem during an Avraham Fried concert. The audience cheered them on when Fried announced their presence. On Tuesday, the Goldin’s attended an Idan Amedi concert at the Zappa Shuni amphitheater and the same scenario unfolded. As soon as Amedi told the audience that the Goldin’s were present, more than one thousand people stood up to cheer them, clapping for several minutes in a show of support. Amedi described the Goldin’s as an “admirable couple.”
These outpourings of support showed Lea and Simcha that their son Hadar has not been forgotten and that the general public appreciates the stance they have taken. They are not begging for the release of terrorists and they do not want to give in to Hamas’ demands. They want to strengthen Israel, not weaken it.
Ehud Banai also mentioned Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul in his most recent concert on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Banai told the audience that these two soldiers were killed defending the south of Israel and their bodies are still being held by Hamas. He then dedicated his song ‘A town in the south’ to Hadar and Oron. Hadar’s friends have joined forces with the directors of Zappa concert promotions and in the past weeks, some ten singers have mentioned them during their shows, including Yuval Dayan and Miri Mesika. This is part of a campaign by Hadar’s family and friends to influence public opinion, but with a difference. Hadar’s twin brother, Tzur told me that whenever they have a new idea they consider how it will ‘raise people’s spirits.’
It has been three years since the summer of ‘Operation Protective Edge.’ Thank God, this August has been a calm month, but the thousands of Israelis who went out to have a good time at a concert, paused for a few minutes and remembered.
Stickers and wristbands were distributed outsides all the concert venues and giant posters were put up displaying one of the amazing sentences Hadar wrote for himself and which has become a source of inspiration for so many people: “You can either choose to do great things in your life, or you can just be involved in your own affairs.”
I guess the real news headline should be: “I am sooo bored.” During the month of August what interests most of Israel’s citizens, from all sectors and all age groups is how to alleviate the boredom. Everyone – children and parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts – spends so much time together in August, be it in a hotel, campsite, in the north or abroad. All the day-camps and any other childcare arrangements have long since finished and families are left with no choice other than to be together. So while the headlines talk about submarines, most Israelis are more concerned with dealing with the kids who are arguing in the back seat of the car. During the past week, I saw parents bringing their kids to work in the TV studio, at the supermarket and in the computer store. I know they were supposed to be ‘helping’ their parents, but I am not sure how bored they were. I sincerely hope that we don’t see these scenes unfolding at the Mossad and the General Security Services, the Shin Bet.
A teacher sent me the ‘Guide to the Summer Vacation’ that she gave out to her students at the end of the school year. It is based on verses from this week’s parasha ‘Ekev’ and gives educational principles that are very relevant to vacation time.
- “You shall not bring an abomination into your house.” With everything being so freely available, more than ever before, we have to filter and select what we watch. Not every reality show is appropriate for our living room, our cellphone or even for our heart. Israeli children are drowning in an ocean of trash and useless nonsense, but this is not a God-given decree, it doesn’t have to be that way.
- “Man does not live on bread alone.” This famous verse reminds us that food is not the be all and end all of life. There are other aspects, in addition to the physical ones. We are not told to ignore all the ‘bread’ in the world, the pizza, hamburger, alcohol, and candies, but we must remember that we cannot live on bread alone and that we have many other significant parts in our lives.
- “Because the Lord, your God is bringing you to a good land, a land of wheat and barley, vines, figs and pomegranates.” For thousands of years, Jews all over the world read these inspiring words about the wonderful Land of Israel but when they looked out of the window, they saw Yemen or Russia. We have merited to live here and get to know this wonderful land with our feet. In the week that we read about ‘A land flowing with milk and honey’, millions of Israelis are walking the paths of our land, getting acquainted with it.
- “Hew for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones.” Shortly after the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel sinned by preparing the Golden Calf. Moses came down from the mountain, was shocked by the vision of Jews dancing round the calf in idol worship and he smashed the Tablets to smithereens. In this week’s parasha, Moses recalls how he begged and prayed to God, who forgave them and gave Moses a second set of Tablets. For thousands of years, our Sages have learnt from this story about the ability to forgive, to make up and erase the past. We have an eternal covenant, a deep-seated connection and therefore there is the possibility to forgive and forget. This is an important message for us in this month when we spend so much time together with those closest to us. It doesn’t matter who hit who, who started the fight and how angry we get. We can and must make a fresh start and begin anew.