We always knew that a few years without an external threat could strain the delicate seams: When the guns go silent, the demons roar. But no one predicted such an outburst of demons of every kind, all at once. The assault on the existing order is an all-out war, on every front; a political tsunami, a cultural flood and a social and religious earthquake, all still in their infancy. Those who call this an exaggeration are trying to lull you to sleep. The defeats and the victories up to now will determine the course of events: In the end, we will have a different country. The pretension of being an enlightened Western democracy is giving way, with terrifying speed, to a different reality – that of a benighted, racist, religious, ultranationalist, fundamentalist Middle Eastern country. That is not the kind of integration into the region we had hoped for.
The ferocious combined assault is highly effective. It targets women, Arabs, leftists, foreigners, the press, the judicial system, human rights organizations and anyone standing in the way of the cultural revolution. From the music we listen to, to the television we watch, from the buses we ride to the funerals we attend , everything is about to change. The army is changing, the courts are in turmoil, the status of women is being pelted with rocks, the Arabs are being shoved behind a fence and the labor migrants are being forced into concentration camps. Israel is barricading itself behind more and more walls and barbed-wire fences as if to say, to hell with the world.
There is no single guiding hand mixing this boiling, poisonous potion; many hands stir the revolution, but they all have something in common: the aspiration to a different Israel, one that is not Western, not open, not free and not secular. The extreme nationalist hand passes the antidemocratic, neofascist laws; the Haredi hand undermines gender equality and personal freedoms; the racist hand acts against the non-Jews; the settler hand intensifies the hold not only on the occupied territories but also deep into Israel; and another hand interferes in education, culture and the arts.
You can’t see the forest for the trees, and the forest is dark and deep. Take, for example, Friday’s paper. The news pages of Haaretz reported on a few such rotten trees: the managers of dozens of businesses in Sderot have begun requiring their workers to dress modestly; in Mea She’arim, the polling places are gender-segregated; nonobservant Jews in Jerusalem have been asked to wear a kippa at work; Carmiel’s Palmach School has been turned into a religious school; discrimination against Sephardic girls at schools in Jerusalem, Modi’in Ilit, Betar Ilit and Bnei Brak; withdrawal from a physicians’ training program for Palestinians as a condition for tax relief; the government’s new plan to fight illegal immigration. And one final touch: The foreign minister gave his imprimatur to the Putinist election in Russia. All in a single day, one ordinary day.