Stuck in the past without a DeLorean
There is a time travel aspect to arriving in Israel.
Driving to Beer Sheva one would not expect to arrive at the downtown right away. There should be single family neighborhoods long before one gets there. But no, there is only desert.
Then densely built apartment towers rise up on the horizon. Oops, comes the realization. We are before they invented suburbs.
Open a newspaper and read about the Rightists and the Leftists. This sounds like Europe in the early 1930’s, when nationalist rightists and socialist leftists battled each other.
In today’s North America there are no nationalists and no socialists anymore, with possible exception of Bernie Sanders. Instead there are conservatives and liberals who mostly argue about the role of government in the economy.
In Israel the arguments are about national issues, while government control of the economy is taken for granted.
Having arrived I would like to explore the neighborhood. I’d go to Walmart and pick up a double suspension mountain bike for $139.
But no, there isn’t a single Walmart! There is a store that sell bicycles, without printed prices and without barcodes. This means you have to bargain. You would be lucky if you find the same type of bike for less than $1390.
So, we are before they invented Walmart.
To see why life in Israel is so different one has to go to the source, to the beginning of Israeli society.
I don’t mean by this the agricultural pioneers. I mean the first Jewish people who lived in large numbers where most people live: in cities.
This was the time of the British Mandate, when about 400,000 Jewish immigrants came to Palestine before the doors closed. They brought with them the European culture and politics of that time.
But then World War II broke out and the connection to continental Europe was lost. The umbilical cord that connected the new Israeli society to its roots was cut and the new country had to develop on its own. It developed on its own time scale so that the way of life and the way of thinking in Israel are not always contemporary with what happens elsewhere.
The greatest anachronism is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are no nationalistic wars in the developed world anymore.
If Quebec would ever want to separate from Canada, all they have to do is win a referendum. There is no need to fight anyone.
Why can’t Israel and Palestine be two friendly democracies, tied together by a free trade agreement? If there is a disagreement about borders, just let the local people vote which country they want to be a part of.
I imagine the angry response: “This is utopia!”
Of course looking from 1936, this is utopia! The future world of democracy and free trade could not even be imagined.
In 1936 people do not know that colonialism will end. Albert Camus just began thinking of writing a novel called The Stranger, in which the protagonist Meursault shoots an Arab and expects to get off lightly.
Camus does not know that in the future Arabs will have the same legal rights as Europeans, and getting off lightly would not be an option!
So how does one get back to the future, to 2019? It is not enough that Israel gets there. Israel would also have to pull the Palestinians out of an even more distant past.
There is a coming fork in the timeline of Israel and Palestine. They will emerge in one version of the future as separate Israel and separate Palestine, and in another version as one Israel-Palestine.
It is still possible for people to choose the version they want without having to build a flux capacitor. But if they wait too long and end up in a version they don’t like, they would need Doc and his DeLorean time machine to get them out.
It is though hard to explain the need to choose. Why not just live in Israel in which only half the population is Israeli? What can possibly go wrong?
Israelis will live everywhere in the Land of Israel. Palestinians will come to do the menial jobs and having done them will go back to their villages. Isn’t this the lifestyle that can last forever?