Fighting the Shallow to Show Israel The Beautiful
By Yaniv Mezuman
These are difficult days for us in this country. And it's not only the security situation. There is a sense that issues of morality and public discourse have become completely contaminated. It's not easy to live in a society and a state in which new corruption or sexual misconduct scandals concerning public officials are reported almost daily. The suspects include both senior government officials and regular citizens. In addition, these matters are often accompanied by a shallow, crude, and superficial discourse involving insults and populism.
Every time an embarrassing story emerges about the Left or the Right, about religious or secular individuals or people who are on opposite sides of any public divide, it appears that the opposite side is almost happy to see that the shameful story has been discovered in the other camp, rather than sharing in its regret.
Sectoralism is getting out of hand, and the responses on whatever is happening at the moment are often critical, loud and self-righteous. It appears as if every sector, rather than looking inward, is demanding introspection from other groups and even doing it for them.
I, for example, try to shield my children from the news, both to protect them from the content that is too complex for them at their age and to save myself the embarrassment of having to explain some of the things that happen in the world of grown-ups. In the morning, when the kids get on the bus to school, I hesitantly ask the driver if he can put on a radio station that plays music rather than the news, and he understands.
Anyone who is plugged into the news and to social media can easily get a pessimistic impression of things. We lose faith in the leadership and get the sense that our leaders are not motivated by commitment or belief in an ideal. What will be our fate -- is this the country that our forefathers and we dreamed of? A light unto the nations?
What are we asking for? For things to be as quiet as possible, for the ability to believe in our leaders and state institutions -- and if possible, to be able to feel proud to be Israeli. Where is Israel the beautiful?
The truth is that the beautiful Israel exists and can be seen everywhere. There is another Israel in which people respect one another, where there is willingness to help each other, where there is solidarity and responsibility, the will and the ability to carry on a different kind of discussion. Corruption, shallow discourse and populism are definitely not the entire picture. Our society and people are willing to volunteer and work for the benefit of others, and there are many enlightened people who use clean language and have open hearts. Sometimes there is a feeling that the people are busy clashing with varying degrees of cleverness in WhatsApp messaging groups, but that's not the entire picture, either. Plenty of groups are busy studying Jewish texts and understanding the message in these texts.
Social media, frequently the scene of a problematic discourse entailing accusations and slander that sometimes approach incitement, can also recruit people for positive causes. To fight back against the cycle of crude, shallow expressions, we need to step up an in-depth discussion about teaching tolerance and listening. There are many good people here who do good things.
These are voices that must be heard. It's important to see the light and the good in Israeli society, because it's there. The pessimistic view causes alienation and detachment that could bring us down, so we must bolster our identification with society and with the state, along with the sense that we have many tasks ahead of us and plenty to fix.
Anyone who's a little nauseated over the shallow, dirty remarks is welcome to come to the Mechinat Lachish pre-army preparatory program, or any other one like it, to encounter a true, respectful, frank discourse. It restores hope and improves the mood. This is the real story.
Don't let yourselves be convinced by all the poisoners and evil slanderers of the country -- they are just drops in the bucket. Let's establish a movement that will collect positive testimonies about what happens in society, on the street, in the army, and everywhere else. Good and light always grow.
Originally posted on Israel Hayom.
Yaniv Mezuman is head of the Mechinat Lachish pre-army preparatory program and a doctoral student in Jewish studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.