The newest episode of the “Promised Podcast” is here:

This time, discussions of:

The establishment of a new joint secular-religious school system. Recently, the Knesset formally approved the establishment of a new “stream” of public education, called the “Zerem Meshalev” (The “Integrating Stream”) which brings under one roof and into a single classroom the children of religious and secular Jews.  This is the formalization of a trend that has been slowly gaining momentum for over a decade, and when it begins to operate as an official “stream” next September, there will already be more than 50 schools up and running. (One interesting new initiative in this direction is a one spearheaded by secular parents in Tel Aviv, that has the active support of hundreds of parents in this ostensibly radically secular city.)   In light of all this, one may wonder:  Why is there now a newly perceived need for schools that bring together secular and religious students?  Why is there now new political will to have such schools gain government support?  Do these schools say anything of importance about the changing nature of religious-secular relations in Israel?  Are these schools are good idea?  What will likely be their educational message to secular kids?  Religious kids?  The parents of each sort?

The Gunter Grass-gate Scandal, and What it does and doesn’t Say about German-Israeli Relations. Renowned German writer Gunter Grass has stirred up controversy by publishing a poem so bad on its own terms that it’s almost unreadable, in which he condemns Israel for threatening to bomb Iran, and condemns Germany for supplying “a further U-boat … to Israel/Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence/Of a single atomic bomb is unproven.” Of course, matters are complicated by the fact that Grass himself served as a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS.  FM Avigdor Lieberman condemned the poem as  “an expression of the cynicism of some of the West’s intellectuals who, for publicity purposes and the desire to sell a few more books, are willing to sacrifice the Jewish nation a second time on the altar of crazy anti-Semites.”  Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai announced that Grass would no longer be granted a visa to visit Israel, and was persona non grata.  At least some prominent Jews in Germany expressed support for this move.  Bernard Henri-Levy finds Grass pathetic.  Alan Dershowitz agrees, but thinks it’s a mistake for Israel to ban Grass for publishing stupid and regrettable poety.  Al Jazeera takes the same view as Dershowitz, though for different reasons.  This kerfuffle raises many questions, including:  What, if anything, can we learn from this about the evolving relationship between German intellectuals and Israel?  And about the attitudes of Israelis to Germans?  Also, was there any sense in banning Grass from coming, rather than subjecting his poem to literary, and perhaps political, criticism?

The Surprising Happiness of Israelis.  When Jeffrey Sach’s Earth Institute at Columbia University published its first “World Happiness Report,” many were surprised to find that Israel came in at 14 of the 156 nations surveyed, beating out a good number of richer, less embattled countries.   The index upon which the report is based took account of wealth, but placed great emphasis on other things like political freedom, strong social networks, low levels of corruption, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable family life and more.  Israel’s good showing got lots of Israelis scratching their heads, wondering why we are so happy if things suck so bad.   One may equally well ask the reverse: Why do we think things suck so bad, if we are so happy?

All this and and the moguls of the Hermon, hip border-crossing literature by author Eli Amir, and the Arab-Israeli woman who won the TV reality show dedicated to Mizrahi Jewish music, and how she became a gay icon!

The whole, beautiful kit and caboodle is brought to you by Shaharit: The Think Tank for New Israeli Politics.

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