From a piece in the New York Times on a woman’s account of her experience with religious men in the Israel Defense Forces; its the kind of pieces the NYT specializes in. Demonizing and creating an “other” and then building the narrative around a glorification of secular “enlightened” principles which thereby affirms the moral superiority of their position, generally white and rich and casting the colonialist shell over these others using the same Orientalist modus-operandi applied to Arabs. Its very ingenious, but its almost total crap and it mirrors the leftist religious bashing in Israel that is a daily stock-in-trade, sometimes deserved but mainly cheap shots without any effort to understand the underlying dynamics. In fact, any challenge to the exclusive right of the secular leadership to run the show is framed as a threat to the state itself; they are the good guys in the white hats.
Religious reluctance to embrace zionism was based on the reasoning that Zionism would supplant the traditional Jewish notion of cultural power , by force if necessary, with a political-militaristic model one adopted from the very non Jews they they were resisting. And, to boot, Zionism would revitalize Jewish culture but coerce an alternative based on political allegiance, ethnicity and money. The secular powers responded with an effective accommodationist ideology: give accommodationists the feeling of inclusion while reinforcing feelings of inferiority. This attitude very much permeates the values of the Times: Both enjoy both the luxuries of power and the exhilaration of rebellion, by portraying religious, the other, as oppressors and themselves as defiant subversives resisting a powerful religious establishment. Purity against great unwashed hordes. Still, its obvious who are the colonizers and who are the colonized. …
(see link at end)…ON a summer day in 2007, I made the mistake of touching a young man I shouldn’t have. I was a soldier stationed on a training base near Binyamina, and my job was to teach combat soldiers how to use their personal weapons. That day, the soldiers in our boot camp were divided in half. While one group was firing under the cement shade of the range, I was left with the other, practicing shooting positions under the unforgiving Israeli sun.
The soldiers’ commander and I lined them up and checked to make sure their weapons were empty of bullets. Then I shouted out a position — standing, sitting or lying down — for the soldiers to jump into. Once a soldier felt certain that his position was correct, and that he was on target, he was supposed to scream “on,” and then yell “fire, fire, fire.” In the meantime, I passed by the row of soldiers and corrected them: an incorrect grip on the gun handle, an arm that was not exactly at 90 degrees. One of the more common problems occurred in the sitting position, which was really less like sitting than it was squatting in a way that increased stability and made it easy to spring upright if you had to. This position strained the leg muscles and, with sweat pouring down my face, I could not blame the soldiers who took the easy way out and simply sat on their feet. But it was still my job to make them do it right.
Amid clouds of dust and shouts of “fire,” I noticed one soldier who was sitting on his foot. He was Ethiopian, and he spoke beautiful, overly correct Hebrew, and usually showed an eagerness to please his commanders. I expected more from him. I approached him and kicked him lightly, to show him how unstable his body position was. “They are shooting at you, and you are falling down!” I shouted. “Get your position right.” But he didn’t move. It must have been hard to hear me, or maybe he was just tired and hot from wearing his helmet and heavy vest….
From the beginning of Israel, it was understood that political power would be employed by those who valued it most, namely, those Israeli Jews least fettered by loyalty to traditional Jewish patterns of behavior and thought which were deemed to be dysfunctional and incompatible with state building, mirroring the European racial critique of Eastern Jews. This power was excessively, violently and in a racist manner and not yielded unless under great pressure. These patterns of power that were established in the early and pre-days days of the state , going back to the early pioneers and the Transfer Agreement with the Nazis, have persisted until today. The religious Jews are, in the best scenario,no more than tolerated guests in the sphere of real power. Like the NYT , their values are assumed in public discourse to be self-evident so that other views are maligned and re-contextualized ; their own finger pointing and criticisms are seen as constructive and reinforcing of democratic values while the same critique outside the circle is an affront and subversive.
Back to the Times: Still, I couldn’t let it slide. The next time I called “sitting,” I came up behind him and put both hands on his shoulders, shaking him. I wanted to explain, “Look how easy it is for me to shake you out of position,” but I couldn’t, because the soldier was yelling at me like he was on fire. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he was still in training and I was shocked by his disobedience. I thought maybe he was confused, so I bent down in the sand and grabbed his foot, moving it so that his toes pointed forward. If anything, he screamed louder. It was only when the drill ended that I caught what he was saying: “I observe touch.”
What this meant was that he couldn’t touch or be touched by girls or women. I was his superior and trainer, but I was also a girl. Since I had been drafted and become aware of this religious rule, I had learned that not all soldiers who wore yarmulkes observed touch, but that all of those who observed touch wore yarmulkes. The safe bet was to avoid touching any of them. But I couldn’t see this soldier’s yarmulke because he was wearing a helmet….
…In Israel the same inner circle that assumed power in 1948 still controls all the major non-elected institutions of the state: media, the security agencies, the judiciary etc. and can be classified as self-perpetuating entities impervious to the figureheads running the Knesset. There are no religious officers at the policy making level of the military and economically, financial power is within the hands of no more than a dozen families who effectively control the guilds, cartels and otheigopolies, barriers to entry. In short, a monopoly theory of profit and control. …
New York Times: Later that day, the commander and trainers ate dinner in the shade of the range while the soldiers sat down on the sand to dine on a boiled egg and rice. “Did you hear?” the commander asked, laughing. He repeated the story of my touching the soldier. “He’s all upset now.”
“I didn’t touch touch him,” I said. “I more like, kicked him and pushed him.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It is not about hitting on him. It has something to do with girls’ periods or something.”…
….During my first year of service, I spent about a week certifying a group of religious soldiers on grenade launchers. On the second day I brought one to the classroom, so I could point to different parts as I was demonstrating how to use them. The moment I touched the weapon, one of the soldiers got up from his chair and left. Soon, the room was filled with the sound of scraping chairs. I proceeded with my lesson plan until I was left alone with one bespectacled soldier, who had been furiously taking notes. It was only when I stopped talking that he looked up, horrified to find that the two of us were alone.
My commander later explained to me that while these particular religious soldiers had no problem being instructed by a woman holding erasable markers and pointing at posters, their doctrine prevented them from seeing a woman touch a weapon. Something to do with a line written somewhere that mentioned women and instruments of war and said the two didn’t go together. I never heard of it before or after, and still don’t quite understand it.
AS a secular Jewish girl who never went to temple, I didn’t interact socially with Orthodox Jews when I was growing up. Everyone at school was like me; the few deeply religious families that lived in my small town sent their children to religious schools. When I visited cities like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the religious people I saw on the bus or on the street, dressed in black hats and jackets, seemed very far from anything I knew.
…Accommodation in brief, is a type of self-colonization in which marginally acculturated groups take for granted and confer a right of the ruling class to lord it over them, pocketing the plums of the state while at it. But with all the demographic changes whereby the religious will shortly be a majority, the old, almost self-negating ideology that immortalized their own inferiority towards the Zionist ruling class is being questioned. And holding up the mirror to themselves can be ugly: you can see a religious Zionists as a sincere and earnest person, but a caricature in search of an identity. They can no longer be more loyal to the ruling class than the ruling class itself and more Zionist than the most ardent secular Zionist of days gone by. ….
NYT: So most of what I know now about religious guys I learned through the list of things that, because of them, I was not allowed to do (or touch) in the army. I sometimes wonder if they learned most of what they know about secular girls from meeting me, and I hope that the impression I left was not too bizarre — they might think that all secular girls yell, swear and kick a lot, and care first and foremost about the effective ranges of bullets and the seven rules of proper marksmanship.
Last month, the law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews — known as Haredim — from mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces expired. Although many very religious Jews, like the ones I worked with, had long volunteered to serve, those who chose to dedicate their lives to the study of the Torah had been officially exempt from service since 2002, and some had been exempt since the founding of Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak granted the army a month to figure out how to begin drafting Haredim. That period ended a few days ago, but a comprehensive solution has yet to be presented. The truth is, no one expects that it will really happen; there is no simple way to force an entire community into a life that goes against what they believe.
One of the reasons religious Jews claim they cannot serve in the I.D.F. has to do with the presence of women, who make up about 30 percent of the army. Last year, several religious soldiers walked out of a ceremony in which a woman sang. Evidently, this is one more thing women are not allowed to do. My encounter with ultra-religious men in the army was the first time I entered a world in which being myself meant existing in a universe where the rules for what I could or could not do rested primarily on my gender. As a female soldier, the so-called burden equality issue has a flip side: It would mean having to accept the burden of serving alongside thousands of individuals who see me as less than equal. For them, I could never be a soldier first; I would always be a woman, whose actions may spell danger to their most deeply held beliefs….
The tolerance of Israel’s leaders to the religious needs of some citizens at the expense of those who are forced to serve is deeply unfair. Yet if the impossible were to happen and all ultra-Orthodox Jews were made to serve in the army, the need to keep our country safe and unified could force us to confront the fact that we are strangers to ourselves. Perhaps that would bring about a greater understanding between religious and secular Israelis. On the other hand, we may find that we are not always striving to preserve the same type of life, or even the same nation. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/opinion/sunday/what-happens-when-the-two-israels-meet.html?pagewanted=all
The “other” Jews as the Times article shows, and with less subtlety in Haaretz, depicts them as a inexorable mob, a cabal ready to thieve an honest and legitimate ruling class, one presentable to the West, of its right of kings mentality and power and assets. The portrayals is almost anti-semitic in itself:These Jews are pacifists, hippy, bohemian types who refuse to serve in the Army. Or, they are terrible hawks plotting to take over the defense establishment. Or, they are anti-Zionists with no connection to the land. Or, the are ultra-Zionistic who sanctify the good earth. These Jews engage in primitive, archaic tribal rites that are rightfully despised by gentiles. Ironically, this very threatening and challenging nature also holds similar arguments fashionable among the “post-Jews” and post-Zionists, extreme leftists: the critique of Zionism as military and cultural imperialism.