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Jerusalem Post: "Israel: The beautiful and the ugly"


There can never be social justice in a country with restrictive and anti-democratic laws that strengthen antagonism.

I love Hayarkon Park. It's very close to my home, so I was pleased to accept an invitation last Friday to a Peace Now meeting held in the park's Council for a Beautiful Israel Center.

The meeting was intended to give activists a chance to express their feelings about the current situation.

Topics for discussion included the imminent passing of even more draconian laws suppressing freedom of expression, the expanding settlement program, the lack of movement on the peace talks and the recent vandalization of Hagit Ofran's home in Jerusalem.

In that beautiful setting I felt hopeful, buoyed by the energy of the young people around me who believe that they want the best for our country. They certainly did not look like threatening left-wing zealots. The seriousness of the subjects under discussion produced no violent or aggressive reactions, but rather sadness and frustration at the deterioration of democratic rights and freedoms in Israel.

People expressed the same sentiments with regard to the split between different sectors of society, the ignorance and denial of the aspirations of those on either side of what is commonly known as the Green Line, which is gradually becoming a red line.

Then the discussion turned to the attacks on a leader of the movement who specifically deals with settlement activities. Imagine the shock of Ofran's neighbors at the sight of red paint sprayed all over the walls of their apartment building, with "Rabin is waiting for you" spray-painted on her car.

I will not delve into the issue further, other than to say that what has happened here could happen to any woman who does not see eye to eye with certain members of our society. Anyone who engages in fundraising projects connecting Jews to Arabs, running mixed childcare facilities or schools, or who participates in joint demonstrations with Palestinians could easily become a target of hatred in our own country.

The inability of law enforcement agencies to identify and arrest those who use the "price tag" slogan to terrorize Jews and Arabs alike is worrying. Especially as we have seen television coverage of the "private" army units being trained in the territories by settlers who maintain that the IDF cannot provide them with adequate protection.

HAGIT OFRAN looked pale and sad and she showed no anger, but I felt that I could be next. I and any woman with a private life and a public persona could be under threat from these anonymous, vicious lawbreakers and violators of human and civil rights and freedoms.

This long, hot summer, hundreds of thousands of Israelis from every sector of our society, including me, were on the streets. I personally did not see even one act of violence, looting or destruction, nor did I hear any threats or verbal attacks on our leaders. It is all the more shocking to realize therefore that the split between those who want peace negotiations to go ahead and those who for religious or whatever reasons do not agree and are prepared to use violence, is not a split but a chasm.

In closing I must add that on Saturday night I was in Rabin Square to remember late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. There were thousands of young people there, many of whom were born after his murder.

Among those who spoke were Sara Blau, an activist from Bnei Brak, the inimitable Yossi Sarid and Rabbi Menahem Froman from Tekoa, who had us all chanting "shalom, shalom, shalom."

Hagit Ofran, Eldad Yaniv and actor Shaike Levi were also there, singing along in their typically Israeli way, especially with Aviv Geffen, who symbolizes that fateful night 16 years ago. These youngsters too, represented a beautiful Israel.

If indeed there is to be a beautiful Israel it will certainly not be found within the parameters of the council of that name, but rather as the result of open discourse to be held all over the country to establish what we want our country to be. There can never be social justice in a country with restrictive and anti-democratic laws that strengthen antagonism.

It is time for Israeli society to do some soul searching and not to keep silent. Time for any two-state solution is running out.

The writer was one of the leaders in the fight for Soviet Jewry and the founder of Metuna, an organization for prevention road deaths.