Translation of an
article to be published
in Ma'ariv on August 22, 2000
Uri Avnerys Reaktion auf
einen "Offenen Brief" von Michal Oren, in welchem sie auf die Situation
der israelischen Gesellschaft reagiert - mit einem Aufruf das Land zu
When you published your
decision to form a group in order to found a new State of Israel
somewhere else, my first reaction was intense anger. Who does she think
she is, this woman? We are in he middle of a tough struggle for the
character of our state, and she wants to desert? And not only that, but
she calls on others to do the same, turning desertion into an ideal?
Dear Michal Oren,
Then I cooled down. I heard the
cry. The warning that we are nearing breaking point. Many good people
feel that our society is sinking and may soon lie at the bottom of the
sea like a Russian submarine. There may be no place in it anymore for
decent, civilized Israelis.
So you call for action. Desertion,
too, is action. But the wrong action. The right action is, of course, to
stand up, to raise your head and fight. Quite simply, to fight for your
Home is where
you get angry
Paradoxically, your call proves
that you are a true patriot. A friend of mine once said something that
has remained with me: "Home is where you get angry." This friend, an
Israeli living in Germany, is quite indifferent to anything happening
there, but when he reads Israeli newspapers he gets angry about
You are angry about Shas. About the
boundless hutzpah of orthodox people. About the general
beastliness spreading through the country, finding expression in the
lack of consideration between people, in speech and behavior, in the
general texture of Israeli society.
If I were to list the faults of
Israeli society as I see them, the space allotted to me would not
suffice. Your solution is to find an empty space somewhere in the world
and to found the State of Israel II there. In other words, this
experiment has not succeeded, so let's go and try again.
Well, first of all, there is no
empty country left in the world where you can found a new state.
(Actually, Palestine was not empty either, but a hundred years ago it
seemed that you could do things which cannot be done today.) But it is
possible to emigrate as individuals and join an existing society. To me,
that looks like parasitism.
You seem to be saying something
like this: Our state is dirty, so let's emigrate to clean Switzerland.
Or: In our state the orthodox have taken over, so let's go to the US,
where separation between state and religion prevails. But cleanliness
was not given to the Swiss by God, and separation of State and religion
was not bequeathed to the Americans as a gift. The Swiss and the
Americans have struggled hard to achieve them. Now you want to enjoy the
fruit of their struggles.
Believe me, it is always bad to be
a stranger, a real stranger. We have experienced that. Only somebody
born here who has not experienced being a stranger could offer such a
What's special about your country
is that even when you feel like a stranger, you know that you have the
right and the ability to change things.
A human being is not a tree planted
in the earth, he/she is a social animal. Transplantation into an alien
society is always painful and frustrating. One does it only when one is
uprooted by force from one's native soil, and mostly it ends in longing
Dear Michal, the real question is:
Is the battle for our society lost? Has the situation reached the point
where we have no alternative but to become refugees? I answer this with
a clear No.
There was a sin
and Shas is the punishment
It seems that most of your anger is
directed against Shas, which many see as the epitome of alienation,
rudeness, ignorance, impertinence and corruption. But Shas is only the
symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. You know that after the
founding of Israel a million Jews from the Islamic countries were
brought here. We were thinking in terms of what is good for the state,
as it seemed then, not in terms of what is good for the individual. They
felt neglected and discriminated against. Instead of understanding that
we were bringing human beings, we brought "aliya" and threw them into
remote corners. The great majority in the country at the time did not
understand, did not want to see, did not want to act. That was the sin,
Shas is the punishment.
But the main social ills are not
the fault of Shas or the Russian immigrants, but of society at large.
The rudeness, the brutality in human relations, the incivility of social
discourse, the belief in naked power as the solution for everything -
the outcome of the ongoing war and occupation, the mother of all sin.
Against these ills we can and must
fight. They can be vanquished. In many places nuclei of resistance have
already been formed - acting to save the environment, to foster
education, to create equality of opportunities, to end war and
occupation, to safeguard human rights. Individuals and groups are
organizing for change. Even your own initiative is, paradoxically, such
a nucleus. But it is not those who emigrate who will win, nor those who
are freaking out at home in indifference or elegant desperation. When
the situation reaches breaking point, thousands and tens of thousands
will join the battle.
Don't go, Michal.
You can make a difference.
You are needed here.
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