The Happy Arab News Service

Friday, December 8, 2006

Who is a Jew ? Who is Israeli ?

This post is a follow-up on 'Who is a Jew?'.

Yossi Beilin is trying to do something good for a change , but once again he is widely missing the mark. Though it would be nice if Israelis finally clear for themselves whom they consider Jewish and whom Israeli, the crack of the issue is why people in this country should travel abroad to get a civil marriage at all.

50% of Israelis identify themselves as totally secular (the rest contains a lot of very mildly traditional people). And many of these care less if their partner is registered as Jewish or not, but they do mind being harassed by the Rabbanut. The fact, that a significant number of the Israeli Jews are not Jewish according to Judaism, should not serve an invitation for secular leftists to start playing with definitions that this state traditionally leaves for the rabbis. In fact it's not for nothing that Beilin is working so hard to undermine unwritten conventions on which our very compromise and understanding with the orthodox stands.

It's highly ironic that such a right wing hard liner as Lieberman, whom the leftists regularly blame in being a transferist, did put the issue of civil marriages at the top of his party program. No wonder, since he and many of his supporters are 'Russians' and probably between 1/4 to 1/3 of of this one million strong community are not Jewish by the definitions of the Jewish Halacha. It does say something about the new generation of the Israeli right who the leftists traditionally accuse of racism.

The root of the current confusion lies in the fact that Israeli Jews bear two identities. One identity is what traditionally understood by being Jewish. Another started taking shape after Israel has been created. Watching in the news the Philippino girl invited to meet Knesset members after her parents received an expulsion order, it was clear as day that this girl, who grew up here, speaks Hebrew as the mother tongue and have all Israeli friends, is Israeli. Even the traditional people, I know, did not dare to claim the opposite. In fact, many of them were cursing the state for its stupid naturalization laws.

It is not difficult to see that after 60 years of Israel's existence a new nation was born and Jews living in Israel are only part of it. The number of people, who would define themselves as Israelis but not Jewish, may be reaching 1/4 of a million. It includes dozens of thousands of people from the 'Russian' community and unknown number of children of foreign gastarbeiters who were raised here, as well as the spouses many Israelis are bringing from abroad. It is also highly indicative that if Israelis ask each other about their nationality, they don't ask if another person is Jewish. They ask if he is Israeli. This indirectly points to that of the two identities which is more important for the Israeli Jews themselves. And it's also highly intriguing that our Arabs call us Israelis more often than they call us Jews. It does show that the Israeli Arabs know the difference between Israeli and Jewish and they want to be part of none of them.

Beilin is waisting his time by playing with this Jewish nonsense. Because what matters is less Jewishness as such. The fact, that the anti Zionist orthodox of Neturei Karta, who take part in almost any large scale anti Israel demonstration world over, are 100% kosher Jews, means nothing to many Israeli Jews. They don't see themselves and Neturei Karta as one people, not by the culture and not by the ideology. It is obvious that, as far as many secular and even some moderately traditional Israelis are concerned, being Israeli counts more than being Jewish, and when it comes to deciding who we are willing to consider part of the nation we ourselves belong to, the Philippino girl or the guys from Neturei Karta, we have made up our minds long time ago.

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