An(other) former government minister was sentenced today to 4 years imprisonment (he was initially sentenced to less then 2 years, but appealed and lost his appeal with an increased punishment. He was(is?) a member of a religious political party who was been swaying with (and been swayed by) Israeli politics for many years.
Disclosure: (a) I am not a religious person. (b) The above mentioned political party and its representatives at the time, played a major role in causing me (and many others) much suffering by imposing their religious beliefs. My partner in life is not Jewish and around the time we married (outside of Israel!) this religious political party rallied around a message that the three most critical problems in Israeli society are violence, drugs and marriage of Jews with non-Jews (that would be me).
What caught my attention was a remark by one of his political peers (another religious politician from the same political party) calling out to change the judicial system in Israel into a jury based system (similar to the American system). This remark, portrays to me an impossible situation of the entire state of Israel.
Religion & Politics
I am not a religious person, but I do consider myself spiritual and attribute myself a capacity for faith. My faith includes an embrace (which goes waaaaay beyond tolerance!) of others, including those with whom I have very little in common and who may even be enemies. This includes religious politicians, who I consider an enemy and a threat to myself. But as my faith would have it I choose to embrace. I want to believe that religion is rooted in spirituality and as such it represents a personal choice – every man potentially has a right to choose a religion. Religious people also vary in their interpretation and application of religious practice to a degree that suits their personal preference.Ultimately spirituality is a artful pursuit of personal growth.
Politics, on other hand, especially systems like democracy where “the people” are represented, are a system of a social choice. Though an elected official may bring personal choice (and charisma!) to office, that choice can only resonate as long as it is in harmony with a vast network of other choices that represent a total accumulated effect of government and “the people”. When he doesn’t resonate well he gets kicked off the choir and a replacement is brought in. Politics is an impossible playground for spirituality and spirituality will always lose to politics. Only a rare spiritual leader who is willing to sacrifice everything (!) may affect a political system – though it is likely that the affects will appear long after he is gone (from politics and probably from his earthly body).
Politicians who bring their spiritual (religious) beliefs and practices into politics are most probably making a (conscious or unconscious) sacrifice. If they are also prominent religious leaders then they are sacrificing not only on their beliefs but also on their entire system of beliefs, and the hearts of the people who subscribe to that system. And so the Israeli religious politicians are playing the lead role in the destruction of the very beliefs they (apparently) set out to protect. Judaism itself is not threatened because it has more flavors then Ben & Jerry’s. My heart goes out to the people who will find their hearts & souls emptied by this misguided, even if well intending, individual.
What about the Jury?
This is such a wonderful point, I wonder if the politician that brought it up has any concept of what it actually means and what the implication of his suggestions would be. The torn fabric of Israeli society around religion goes deep, so deep that if you trace it long enough you may find that this dress we wear and call “Israel” is from it’s first days hanging by a barest of threads. Israel, in it’s current configuration, is a Jewish country.
This was a good enough definition when everyone was busy fighting for their lives. Sure there are a few million Arab citizens that don’t subscribe to that decision but we have managed to keep them checked. We haven’t had a good war in quite some time, so we’ve had a chance to evolve.
For example, My parents had time to raise me, and I grew up to marry a woman who is not Jewish, which puts me in direct conflict with the reigning national definition. Apparently I am not the only one to do this. It seems that many people prefer to consummate their life together without a Rabbi present. Homosexuals can’t get a Rabbi even if they wanted one. What about foreign workers and their children? and the list goes on and on…
What then is a “Jury of the people”? which “people” are you referring to? Am I people? Is my wife? Are gays people?Are the millions of national Arabs people? To answer this question we are going to have to role up our sleeves and dig into a deep swamp – because we are going to have to go back to the beginning and ask “What is this thing called Israel?”. I read recently that this question actually did come up when Israel was just taking it’s first steps. There was a temporary parliament in place and on it’s task list was to form a committee that would deal with this question. Already the USA was a role model for us because the answer was supposed to come in the form of a constitution. But the task was put-off, indefinitely, and to this day is rotting away in the national to-do list, and it takes just one rotten apple…
My Fellow Citizens
Indeed Israel is in a state of advanced rot:
- We have absolutely no leadership. I can’t think of one member of parliament as a leader or even a potential leader.
- Politicians have a life-span shorter then hi-tech workers. No effective legislation can be carried through because the system does not have enough longevity or motivation to cope with it. In these troubled times (I am not into listing troubles – but people are welcome to compliment my work in comments below!) members of parliament have time to debate canceling a law that requires bicycle riders to wear helmets! They may as well do something while they are in office right – after all they are getting paid!
- The “jury” (pun intended) is still out on the helmets but we are running out of agriculture water. There is a long standing speculation that water (or lack of it) may be at the heart of a coming local war… while Israel has a long coast-line and is claimed to be a world leader in water processing technologies.
- It seems that people shoulder very little responsibility for their choices. People don’t seem to care about what is right or good (at the risk of being wrong), but only about what is punishable (and this too is sliding away – see 3 points down).
- Exploitation is rising. A Russian-immigrant-rooted-right-wing-extremist political party rose to power by promising to pass a controversial family-status legislation – and is has recently pulled out it’s support. It didn’t really matter because the suggested legislation was hollow and toothless. When an example of exploitation is set by leaders…
- As a result respect, both personal and others is at an all time low (there really isn’t much to respect!)
- We have a judicial system that is collapsing, and justice is not on it’s agenda. Members of parliament publicly display their contempt and lack of respect for the highest judicial authorities. The legislative and enforcing bodies openly attack the judicial system.
- I could go on, but I don’t want to.
Again my choice to embrace comes up. If it smells like change, it looks like change, it tastes like change and it feels like change – maybe it is change? Maybe we need to copy one more thing from our American role models – a civil war? The more we try to avoid it the more viciously it will come at us. We can paint over the walls over and over again but the cracks will keep coming out until we reinforce the foundations. It may look nice, but eventually it will come crumbling down.
Finally My “Enemies”
I imagined a real warm-blooded “enemy of Israel” reading this and thinking what a great opportunity this is – they are fighting each other, maybe if I … just a little… If you happen to be of this disposition I’d like to give you a peace (some pun intended) of advice. Nothing will pull Israeli’s together more effectively then a clear and shared enemy. Unlike our role models in the USA who’s constitution (ahum!!) tempers democracy, Israel can shift and reorganize and be unexpected. Israeli’s have an ingrained burning fear of survival (or potential lack of it) and an amazing potential for improvising. Israeli’s will quickly release each others throats and take up arms to fight, so they can quickly get back to each others throats.
So it would seem that by being an enemy, you would also be a great friend. What to do?
A classical dictum in the history of states & war was that my enemy’s enemy is a friend. Maybe it’s time for a more mature, and at the risk of contradicting myself, more spiritual dictum? It is tempting to offer one, but, in the spirit of staying true to myself, a spiritual dictum is a private place – so I will keep mine to myself and leave you to form yours.
Who is enemy? Who is friend?