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The Fearmongers

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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opednews.com Headlined to H3 12/11/11

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ON THE anniversary of David Ben-Gurion's death, the usual memorial meeting was held at his graveside in Sdeh Boker, the Negev desert village where he lived in his retirement. There is no cemetery, just his grave and that of his wife Paula.

The newspapers published a picture of Binyamin Netanyahu making a speech under a big photo of the late leader gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

One little detail in the picture caught my eye: Netanyahu was wearing a kippah.

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Why? Ben-Gurion was a convinced atheist. He refused to wear a kippah even at funerals. (Though a complete atheist myself, I do sometimes wear a kippah at funerals, out of consideration for the feelings of others.)

The place was not a synagogue, nor even a cemetery. So why for God's sake (sorry) did the man put this black kippah on his head?

For me that is a sign of what I call the re-Judaization of Israel.

ZIONISM WAS, among other things, a revolt against the Orthodox Jewish religion, that was associated with the Diaspora which Zionists contemptuously call Galut ("exile"). All the founding fathers of Zionism -- Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Chaim Weizmann, Ze'ev Jabotinsky and the rest -- were convinced atheists.

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So why did Ben-Gurion give the religious parties two autonomous education systems, financed by the state?

Why did he release pupils of religious seminars ("yeshivot") from military service?

People of my age can remember the situation. Ben-Gurion, like all of us, believed that the Jewish religion was about to die out. Some old people, who spoke Yiddish, were still praying in the synagogues, but with time they would disappear. We, the young new Israelis, were secular, modern, free from these old superstitions.

Not in his darkest nightmares (or daymares) could Ben-Gurion have imagined a time when religious pupils, some of whom are not taught in their schools even the most basic modern skills, would amount to nearly half the Israeli Jewish school population. Or that the number of religious shirkers now deprives the army of several divisions.

Step by step, the religious community is taking over the state. The religious settlers, the religious anti-Arab pogromists, their allies and ultra-right collaborators are gaining new footholds by the day. Just now the army has announced that 40% of candidates for junior officers' courses are wearing kippahs. In 1948, when our army came into being, I did not see a single kippah-wearing soldier, not to mention an officer.)

But the danger of re-Judaization goes far beyond the political sphere.

LET ME take a metaphor from nature.

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The premier necessity in nature is survival. There are many different strategies for survival, and nature embraces all of them -- as long as they are successful.

The gazelle survives by running away. When in danger, it escapes. It is very successful in this. Fact: the gazelles have survived.

The lion survives by fighting. When in danger, it attacks. It relies on its teeth and claws. It is very successful in this. Fact: the lions have survived.

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