A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Which way will it be?… Will the citizens of Israel choose heaven or hell in the coming elections? Will they choose “spring of hope” or “winter of despair?” It is as much “A Tale of Two Cities” – to borrow the title and the classic opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ masterwork – as anything else that will determine the results of these elections. Never before, so it seems to the writer of these words, such a stark choice presented itself before the citizens of Israel, manifested so clearly by the choice of Jerusalem on the one side, and Tel Aviv on the other.

But let’s back up first. It can be argued, in broad strokes at least, that from Independence (1948) to the Six-Day War (1967) it was the age of the kibbutzim – דור הקיבוצים – which led the way in Israel. The spirit of settling the land, working the land, defending the land – was led by the kibbutzim and their kibbutzniks. They volunteered; they fought; they died; they led the army and the nation, in spirit and in deeds. In short: they were the tip of the spear. The leaders, too – from David Ben Gurion to Yigal Alon; from Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin; from Israel Galili to Shimon Peres – came from, or went to, the kibbutzim.

The Six-Day War changed all that. Once they liberated the country and secured its survival, they backed down, tired, confused and overwhelmed. By doing so, they enabled the age of Jerusalem – דור ירושליים – to commence and take over. Even though it was the kibbutzniks (in the larger sense and meaning) who captured the city on the hill and liberated it, they left it behind and returned to their kibbutzim. Which turned out to be disastrous. Left to their own devices, the messianic forces of religiosity, occupation, intolerance and biblical aspirations took over and ruled the land of Israel from then on. Rabin stood in their way for a while and tried to change course – so they murdered him.

That age of intolerance found a fitting leader in Benjamin Netanyahu, who was able – combining, indeed, excellent skills and much determination – to bring about, following Rabin’s assassination, the age of the status quo: דור מצב-קיים. A leader without a vision, without inspiration, without courage for change, a technocrat of the first order, he was still able to continue to solidify the anti-Zionist “occupation endeavor,” rejecting any and all overtures towards peace from the Arab League and the Palestinians, including America and Europe, resulting in a stalemate that, in the long run, might bring about a fate akin to – don’t take it literally, though – a third-temple-destruction of Jerusalem and Israel.

It is now up to Tel Aviv to come to the rescue of the “beautiful country.” Change now! That’s what needed. Change now – not later. A dramatic change, at that, and a new revolution. The city by the sea must bring about a new age: the age of Tel Aviv – דור תל-אביב. The white city, the liberal city, the fun-loving city should now go for broke and fight for its survival. It is the first, and the largest of Israeli cities, and it is where Ben Gurion and his colleagues declared Israel’s Independence. It is the center of art and culture; business and start-up innovation; sports and entertainment; live and let live kind of a place. My kind of a place.

But in order to sustain its values and grow, in order not to collapse, not to be destroyed by the “fools on the hill,” they must go to fight now and save Israel from its historic, biblical age, and bring about the modern age of enlightenment, of wisdom, of tolerance and hope.

About the Author
Hillel Damron was born in Kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust; he was an officer of elite paratroop unit who was wounded in battle; studied film and became a director of TV documentaries, video shorts and a feature film. Damron is the author of three novels, short stories and a political blog; winner of Moment Magazine’s 2011 Memoir Contest and is the past executive director of the Hillel House, at University of Davis, California.