When I was in Tel Aviv, after the Birthright Israel trip ended, I paid particular note to the graffiti lining the walls. I took pictures of it. But the most common graffiti I saw said "Am Yisrael Chai." This translates to "The People of Israel live."
The second most common graffiti I saw was in English, and it said "Know Hope." Here is an image of that:
I have been wrestling in my head with the issue of the Arab Israeli minority in Israel. To put things in context, African Americans are about 12% of the American population, and Arab Israelis are 20% of the Israeli population. And so the Arab Israeli issue cannot be ignored or swept under the rug, as it has been for too long. Please note that the birthrate for Arab Israelis is 4.0 per woman, compared to 2.7 per woman for Jewish Israelis. 25% of the new births in Israel are Arab Israelis. This is a demographic threat that will only get worse with time.
I was reading an Arab Israeli politician's website, and I was in horror, reading what he had to say. He said that for too long, the Arab Israeli nationality has been subjugated, and their history ignored. But now, evidently, the Arab Israelis are learning their own history and identifying with their nationality.
This is a horrifying problem.
What does this mean? It means that Arab Israelis are taught that May 14, 1948, is a day of mourning, not celebration. It means that there are essentially two Israels. It should also be noted that Arab Israelis receive a fraction of the funding for their schools, compared to Jews. And yet, funding their schools also means funding schools that are teaching something incompatible with Zionism.
Think about it. In the United States, there is no minority that learns that July 4 is a day of mourning. There is no minority that is taught in a different language.
And yet doing something about this problem necessarily means going against the priniciples of democracy and equality that we as Jews hold so dear to our hearts. However, not doing something about it also means sitting on a ticking time bomb. I do not believe that a bi-national state is a state that will be welcoming Jews for long. But moreover, a binational state is not a refuge for Jews, nor a Jewish homeland.
What should Israel do about this? I see the problem, but I do not see any clear solutions. The only politician even acknowledging the problem is Avigdor Lieberman, and he is advocating a radical solution: basically saying that all Israelis should sign loyalty oaths to Israel, and be required to join the IDF. Those who are not willing to join the IDF (Arab Israelis, but also Haredi Jews and peaceniks), do not get the benefits of citizenship. Is this the only way?
The solution that I came up with is to fully fund Arab Israeli schools, and to send Jewish Israeli teachers to teach the kids Zionism. There should be one education system, and one overarching culture that unites everyone. Without this, then there is no country, and Israel is a failure. And yet, after visiting Israel, I was struck by the following...I think that most Jewish Israelis really do not trust Arab Israelis, and believe that they are not loyal to the State of Israel. I think most Jewish Israelis believe that Arab Israelis must be hating themselves while they sing the Hatikvah. And I think that, because of what they are taught by their schools, parents, and mosques, perhaps that's true. But it doesn't have to be true.
For a nonJew to live in the first world country of Israel, and get to associate with Israelis - it's a positive, not a negative. Jewish culture, history, and philosophy has shaped the world, and it is to the benefit of a nonJew who is not a hater to live in the land of Israel.
I do believe that many Jewish Israelis believe it is a slap in the face for a nonJew to be singing the Hatikvah ("The Hope"). And yet, hope is what is required to keep us going each morning. Without hope, we perish and die. The concept of Israel as a refuge for Jews, as the hope of Jews, is not exclusive to Jewry. The Jewish people, individually, are not always the best people in the world. This is unfortunate. And yet, collectively, Jews have contributed to the world in a way that vastly exceeds their numbers. Jews have contributed to the fields of science, philosophy, the arts, and politics in a way that is fundamental to world civilization.
And so why wouldn't a nonJew want to live in Israel, and be sincere in the desire to contribute to this Jewish society?
The simple answer is hate. But hate is taught, hate is learned. Lest we forget, we are all born a tabula rasa, blank slate. And this is why Israelis should be doing all in their power to stamp out the seedlings of hate until they bloom into flowers that cover the entirety of Eretz Yisrael. I have come to believe that if Israel is not willing to fully fund Arab Israeli schools and teach them Israeli nationalism and pride, then perhaps Avigdor Lieberman's plan is what is necessary. But continuing down the current primrose path that Israel is taking simply is the road to perdition. I believe this more than ever, after reading the email a friend sent.
What do you all think?