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The famous legend is that while Rome burned to the ground, its emperor Nero entertained himself by fiddling on his violin. The current election campaign in Israel reminds me of that legend. Every nonsensical issue from returning used bottles and pocketing the deposits to the current contempts regarding the appointment, firing and reappointment of avowed leftists as judges for the awarding of the Israel prize in literature fill the media day in and day out.

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of the collapse of Arab states that surround us, the continuing progress of Iran towards nuclear capability and perhaps, most importantly, the challenges of the real domestic issues here in Israel. All of the political parties advance such nonsensical spin and engage in terribly vitriolic and unfair character assassinations of leaders other than the ones they follow.
Jews in major European capitals are being slaughtered simply because they are Jewish. There is no doubt that anti-Semitism in all of its guises – including and perhaps especially, anti-Israel activities and propaganda – is the popular program of the academia and masses of Europe. There is no need any longer for Holocaust denial – the Holocaust is simply irrelevant in today's Jew-hating world.
One could say, and I think there are many who do, that we are reliving the decade of the 1920s when officially backed and intellectually condoned anti-Semitism ruled Europe. The major difference, however, between then and now is the state of Israel. So what the state of Israel will do, if anything, to counteract this plague should be one of the major issues placed before us in this election. Sadly until now, it is completely missing from the rhetoric and discussion.
People are fascinated by nonsense and unimportant matters. To the sports fan there is nothing more important than the success or failure of the team that one is rooting for. Deep down in one’s heart, one is well aware that in the long run of history, it really makes little difference which team wins the championship.
The fan is also well aware that one’s team’s winning or losing the championship cannot materially affect one’s status in life, one’s family relations and one’s ultimate achievements and mission. Yet in spite of all of this knowledge and reality, millions of people the world over are more preoccupied with the relatively nonsensical sports page of the newspaper than with any other contents of that paper.
It is the nonsense of life that fascinates us and holds our attention and imagination. We almost willfully wish to ignore the dangers and challenges that face us and of which we are certainly aware. We concentrate on matters, which at best are very peripheral to our lives, success and future. Election campaigns are aware of this proclivity of ours and as a result we are forced to deal with the vastly unimportant issues raised by the political parties and to ignore the very real issues that should be discussed, debated and clarified. The elephant is always in the room here in Israel but no one wishes to recognize its presence and effect upon us.
To me, perhaps the most serious issue that exists in our country currently is the fact that there are large numbers and significant sections of Israeli society that do not share the ethos and accept the basic legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel. The four Arab political parties, which have united to form one electoral bloc, will according to current polls, comprise at least ten percent of the Israeli Knesset after the elections.
The Israeli Arabs have never been integrated into Israeli society. Many if not most of them feel themselves to be Palestinian and not Israeli. Even though very few of them would choose to give up their Israeli citizenship and live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, their hearts and souls belong more to Abbas than to any Jewish Israeli political leader or head of government.
To me, again, what to do with our own Arab citizens and how to integrate them into Israeli society, while still allowing them complete religious autonomy, is a greater problem than how to deal with the Palestinian Authority. In addition, the splintered but numerous and politically important Charedi public, and all of its various political parties and organizations, appears to also have significant representation in the next Knesset. Yet, in its heart of hearts much of this section of Israeli society views the state as a sinful creation and is a form of exile of Jews amongst Jews.
How to deal with this strange but real condition should be a topic of debate, discussion and policy. Yet aside from the populist demand for army service for Charedim, nary a word is heard from either side of the divide as to how this problem should be tackled. It will take great shocks unfortunately to make us begin to ignore the nonsense and deal with the mortal dangers and challenges that truly beset us.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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