Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dangerously Undiluted


A glimpse of the Chanukkah festivities at Disengoff Center today in Tel Aviv. Children gathered as entertainers captivated by way of magic shows and clowns on stilts.

I spoke today with a young boy named Matan. He is a 17 year-old activist organizing a petition to improve the public transportation here in Tel Aviv. He wants to encourage the development of an underground rail network for the city, an infrastructure I believed to be unfeasible due to the potential havoc a terrorist attack might cause in a subterranean environment. Matan seemed to believe differently, but I'm not convinced he knows. He complained instead of the cumbersome bureaucratic impediments put up by the government, a popular Israeli discontent.

Matan claims to belong to a group of anarchist environmentalists – an interesting development in a nation already beleaguered by vigilantes eager to influence politics through radical action. Environmentalism is a relatively new phenomenon here in Israel. Apparently the older generations are not motivated at all by issues of environmental degradation. I think the prevailing sentiment among the veteran Zionists is that Israel's natural resources are here to be exploited by any means that will further the economic and structural advancement of the state. Young people, however, recognizing that they are to inherit the environmental disasters that have already altered the Israeli landscape permanently, sense the imposing reality that environmental issues play. Water, primarily access to it, is a hotly contested chip in the game of Middle Eastern roulette.

Israeli elections are slated for March, but with Palestinian elections bearing down in January all the chips are on the table. What is in store this round remains unpredictable, but it looks as though Sharon's new party stands to gain major ground. The "bulldozer" as he is commonly referred to, claims this will be his final toss of the hat. It looks now, that he aims his legacy towards smashing Israel's ties with the settler movement once and for all. As the rest of the world lets out a collective sigh of relief, many are left to wonder whether the Israel that Sharon leaves behind will be able to address the disenfranchised minority within Israel. Namely non-Jewish Israelis, who are held second class by way of military exemption, among other slights. In a country where the military has such profound implications on the political, this appears a serious offense. Especially when you consider the fact that many jobs in Israel carry military service as a prerequisite to employment. In a nation where anyone can serve in the legislature, but not everyone serves in the military, the institution brandishing the sword remains undiluted. Dangerously so.

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