The Promised Podcast is back and, critics say, better than ever.  It’s the news of Israel, discussed in an unblinkered way by insiders who know and love Israel. This time, we discuss these three topics:

(1) Should we give a damn what the world thinks?  The latest annual “Country Ratings Poll” of the BBC World Service (carried out by and University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes) ranks Israel as the third least popular country in the world (or the “third worst country in the world” as the Palestinian Telegraph headlined the story they seemingly plagiarized from Ha’aretz).  Ouch!  (The original Ha’aretz story can be found here, alongside coverage by the Times of Israel).  The story illuminated the blogosphere like the Northern Lights, with critics of Israel finding in the study validation for their long held views.   Some pro-Israel bloggers saw in the results a spur to redouble efforts to get out the good word about Israel’s positive aspects.  Some bloggers related to the whole thing with wry resignation and humor.   (It is worth noting, by the way, that elsewhere the polls has sparked similar recriminations and breastbeating, perhaps most notably concerning Pakistan, whose showing was worse than Israel’s).

We ask: (1) Should we care what global public opinion polls show our popularity to be?, (2) If so, why?  (3) Should they influence our behavior in any way (or rather, should the ill-regard with which we are held by many in many places influence our policy, behavior, etc.)?

(2) Why must we have teenagers In love?   Recently, the Knesset voted (in a preliminary reading) to raise the legal minimum age of marriage from 17 to 18. (And here.) This after recent surveys have shown an increase in underage marriage Religious parties opposed the proposal, claiming that it is anti-religious, that it would stymieyoung people ready for marriage, and that it would further expand the scourges of pre-marital sex and abortion.  Some secular legislators insisted that the law was necessary to bring Israel into line with progressive, enlightened standards, and that the religious opponents were medieval nincompoops.

We discuss the following questions: (1) Do those traditionalist Israeli subcultures in which marriage customarily occurs at a younger age than the rest of us (some Arab subcultures, Bedouin, Ethiopian, Haredi, and more) have a right to continue these customs?  (2) How does one draw the line demarcating legitimate cultural autonomy from, in this case, child (and more specifically, girl) abuse?

(3) Should we forget thee, O Jerusalem Day.  Recently, Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day.  Well, a part of the country celebrated J-lem Day.  Bar Ilan University gave off, while Tel Aviv University saw demonstrations against the occupation.  PM Netanyahu gave a stirring speech about the indivisibility of the City, while former PM Ehud Olmert said that, truth be told, J-lem already was divided, and needed to be formally so if peace was ever to be achieved with the Palestinians.  Leftists around the country voiced misgivings ranging from ambivalence to hostility towards the celebrations of the unification of the city.  In “Open Zion”, Gershon Gorenberg criticized J-lem as a day that celebrates the city in a way that ignores the Palestinians who live there, and embodies a vision of the city as part of some redemptive, messianic Jewish vision for Jerusalem, instead of an earthly, democratic, multi-cultural city serving as the capitols of two nations.

We are joined to discuss all this by Gershom Gorenberg himself, a brilliant mensch.

Plus, an encomium to the natatorial arts, a paean to the primogenial politicians of the periphery, and a panegyric to the piano!