Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Israeli politics and the quest for a good story

This week, I’ve seen Israel in the news in far too many unflattering ways. The outcry against the Basic Law, the Conservative rabbi arrested, the LGBT protest for fair surrogacy laws just drive home the friction between the religious and secular and the political stranglehold that smaller religious parties have over the rest.

As the week unfolded, I began collecting links to articles, analyses and op-eds about the Basic Law, as I thought I would write about it (and I will supply the links at the end). Separately, I read a piece in The Atlantic by a Pakistani American Muslim who visited the West Bank. The picture he paints of those with hardened hearts is not flattering to either side, but it needs to be seen.

To counterbalance this, I had to find a good story, an encouraging one. And I did. A law introduced by Member of Knesset Yousef Jabareen of the Arab Joint List party passed unanimously (albeit with only 48 of 120 members present). No politics here. Similar to a law passed in 2016 regarding the elderly, his new law gives pregnant women the ability to avoid waiting on lines and simply go to the front. I would like to think that a body of lawmakers that can care about some of its population no matter their religion or race, could care about it all.

This also got me curious as to whether other laws have passed unanimously, let alone those introduced by Arab lawmakers. Besides protecting pregnant women and those over 80, together they passed legislation requiring all schools and day care centers to have an epi-pen on hand, and for all new facilities to have them before they can be granted a license to operate. Together, they voted to reverse a law that would have split the news division from the entertainment division of the public television in order to keep Israeli eligible to host Eurovision next year, after winning it this year.

* * *

Now, back to the Basic Law, in addition to reading the articles linked below, I’d also witnessed a discussion online which pointed out that some of the driving force behind the law actually had to do with the schism between Orthodox and Reform. Be that as it may, there are many angered by this law’s passing. Personally, I can’t understand why a country that has survived without such a law for 70 years even needed to pass it. I can’t see what it adds to the national conversation other than divisiveness and an invitation to be the basis for lawsuits.

Promised links:

Given the seven years it took to put this law together, there was no excuse not to call on minorities within Israeli as well as Jews in the diaspora to serve as sounding boards to vet the language used. And even if the rights of all of Israel’s citizens are protected, the law needed to do a better job of proving it.

I wish a government that worries about pregnant women, epi-pens and senior citizens would also worry about the cohesiveness of the country’s society, of all its citizenry. How do we get there from here?

Photo credit: Israeli Parliament, The Knesset in Jerusalem. Kobi Gideon, Government Press Office.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture. Since returning to the U.S. in 2003; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta. An Ashkenazi mom to Mizrahi sons born in Israel and the US, MIL to a DIL born in France and a step mom to sons born in the South, she celebrates trying to see from multiple perspectives and hope this comes out in her blogs. Wendy recently completed two master's degrees in public administration and integrated goblal communication, while also splitting her time between her research position at the Center for Israel Education, taking a grad school class on conflict management, digging deep into genealogy while bringing distant family together and spending too much time on Facebook. All of this is to say, Wendy's life has brought her to the widened framemwork she uses for her blogs: there are many ways to see and understand.
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