Eight months into aliyah, consistency is the one thing I miss most from the old country. Granted, things weren’t perfect there, but, at risk of a pun, On the one hand, things improve all the time. Remember when you had to bring toilet paper when you visited? The Keep Olim In Israel group managed to get through a change in the law which makes it easy to transfer your driver’s license; getting our passports only took about 10 minutes and arrived in the mail within two weeks. On the other hand, any benefit you have can be gone next week, with little notice.
I believe that this lack of consistency, not just in the government itself, but in every aspect of the way the country runs, is the root of all the problems we have here. Every problem, from small to large, can be traced back to the fact that we just can’t pick a path and stick with it.
Have you ever noticed that the buses here are often either packed to the gills, or almost empty? Why? Because there are little electronic signs next to the bus stops now, which tell you when the bus is coming. There is even an app called Moovit that tells you when the bus is coming. Both in real time. They rarely agree and they both lie. Often the sign will count down to zero and then say “30 minutes”. How does that happen? I have no idea, but I have learned that when there is a bus here, but filling up, and the sign and the app both say there is another bus in two minutes, I’ll get on this bus. Even if I’m not in a hurry and even if it’s not exactly going where I want. I have no faith there will be another bus and neither does anyone else. Sometimes, it’s so bad that the second bus will pass the first!
This past Yom Ha’atzmaut, the International [Jewish] Bible Contest was held. This year, a young man — Sintayehu Shafrao — who lives in Ethiopia participated, but was initially required to put up a large amount of money so he wouldn’t stay in Israel. As far as I know, the contest, which is run by the state, is not open to non-Jews. So he is Jewish, according to Israel, for the *Bible* contest, but not Jewish enough to live here??? To top it off, the Interior Ministry reversed its decision and let him stay, which just makes the ministry look worse. If you hold the Falashmura are Jewish, then we should be bring them here en masse and offering them at least the support that we Westerners get. And if you really hold that they really aren’t Jewish, why bring them here at all? At least it would be clear where they stand. Picking one way or the other, you’d have backers and detractors, but it’d be principled. This way, the ministry just makes us all look racist.
The biggest problem we have here, arguably, is the Arab conflict. The real reason this is a problem within the country is that we’ve never decided what to do. If we had made Judea, Samaria and/or Gaza part of Israel from 1967, there’d be little conflict left. The Arab population would know where they stood, either as citizens or permanent residents, or expelled as Jordanian citizens — which they all were in ’67 — and would have gotten used to it. Alternatively, how much easier would it have been to create a mini-state in Gaza in 1968 vs. 2005, when you had to rip the nation apart to do it?
Instead, we behave like a needy ex, leaving the door open a crack, just in case. For years, we waited around for Jordan or Egypt to take the Arabs in Gaza, Judea and Samaria off our hands. Countries that never wanted their erstwhile “brethren” and were thrilled to see them be Israel’s problem, and even, in the case of Jordan, revoked the citizenship they already had. Or we waited for Mashiach to come and make it magically better. Jew and Arab alike have had to gamble on whether they, or the property they buy and build, will be part of Israel, some other state, or no-man’s land next week when someone makes a decision.
I’m a great proponent of annexation, at least of Area C, where I live, but even barring that, can you imagine what we could have if we could just stick with something? We might not get what we want, but we’d know what we had.