By ETHAN BRONNER
FOR years, conventional wisdom has held that as long as Israel faces the external challenge of Arab — especially Palestinian — hostility it will never come to terms with its internal divisions. The left has sometimes used it as an argument: we must make peace with the Palestinians so that we can set our house in order — write a constitution, figure out the public role of religion. Others have viewed the threat as almost a silver lining keeping the place together: differences among Israeli Jews (religious or secular, Ashkenazic or Sephardic) are so profound, the argument goes, that if the society ever manages to turn its attention inward, it might tear itself apart.
Back in Tel Aviv for a recent visit a year after ending my tour as Jerusalem bureau chief, I was struck by how antiquated that wisdom felt. At a fascinating and raucous wedding I attended and from numerous conversations with a range of Israelis, I came away with a very different impression. Few even talk about the Palestinians or the Arab world on their borders, ...Instead of focusing on what has long been seen as their central challenge — how to share this land with another nation — Israelis are largely ignoring it, insisting that the problem is both insoluble for now and less significant than the world thinks. We cannot fix it, many say, but we can manage it.
The wedding took place near Ben-Gurion airport, where a set of event halls has gone up in the past seven years, including elaborate structures with a distinct Oriental décor of glistening chandeliers, mirrored place mats and sky-high ceilings with shifting digital displays. The groom’s grandparents emigrated from Yemen; the bride’s came from Eastern Europe, an example of continuing and increasing intermarriage between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
The music was almost entirely Middle Eastern in beat, some of it in Arabic, some of it religious. The hundreds on the dance floor, many staying until dawn singing along with arms gesticulating, came from across a range of political, geographic and religious spectra — from miniskirted to ultra-Orthodox modesty. ... Everyone was celebrating. ... Some talked politics with me. No one mentioned the Palestinians.
ISRAEL today offers a set of paradoxes: Jewish Israelis seem in some ways happier and more united than in the past, as if choosing not to solve their most difficult challenge has opened up a space for shalom bayit — peace at home. Yes, all those internal tensions still exist, but the shared belief that there is no solution to their biggest problem has forged an odd kind of solidarity.
Indeed, Israel has never been richer, safer, more culturally productive [?]or more dynamic. ... Israel has never felt more Middle Eastern in its popular culture, music and public displays of religion. ... The Israeli left is still there, of course, but in increasingly insignificant knots.
Other accomplishments that go unmentioned in the article include the government's decisive defeat of illegal immigrants ("illegal infiltrators").
Obviously, much of the high level anxiety in American culture over Israel is increasingly silly. For Israel, conflicts with neighbors are increasingly like Notre Dame's conflict with USC: fun for boosters, but not an existential threat. If the Trojans beat the Fighting Irish, they don't get to demolish the Golden Dome and rape all the coeds.
I would add that there is much Americans can learn from the success of 21st Century Israel. Israel is one of the few countries in the semi-Western world where the government is explicitly devoted to the welfare of the majority, even at the expense of minorities. Not surprisingly, the majority is doing well.