I know I haven't written anything to people about Israel, other than a few Facebook updates (all they said was that I had arrived and have watched some soccer games - the World Cup is definitely the most important public event going on now). I guess I've been feeling a bit depressed about the situation here. It just seems like such a mess.
When I arrived the immediate issue was of a court case involving a Haredi community in the West Bank where they were accused of discriminating against Sephardi girls in admission to the local school (state-funded by the way). The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the discrimination was illegal, and then took the further step to order the Haredi Ashkenazi parents who had taken their daughters out of the school (in protest of the order to integrate it) - to go to jail for two weeks, both mothers and fathers. That happened a week ago. Most of the fathers went to jail, but none of the mothers, and today the court ruled that most of the mothers won't have to go to jail. In reaction to the ruling, there were extraordinarily large Haredi demonstrations all over Israel, including one of 100,000 people in Jerusalem! (Fortunately, I was nowhere near it).
And then there's the whole business with the flotilla and its aftermath. Everything I've read in the Israeli press about the makeup of the Israeli inquiry commission suggests that it's a joke, that the government set up this commission simply to mollify the U.S. (which actually isn't working, since the U.S. is still calling for an international inquiry). Israel has now been forced to lighten the blockade on Gaza because of international pressure, which is obviously better for the people of Gaza but makes the Israeli government look weak, which it is. And more flotillas are on their way, from Lebanon and Iran. Who knows how the incompetent Israeli government will deal with them - not well, I imagine.
See these articles on the planned flotillas: Lebanon has just told Israel that it will be "fully responsible" if Israel attacks the boats that will be coming from there. Iran is also sending a boat to break the blockade.
Iran said Tuesday it would send a blockade-busting ship carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza, fueling concern in Israel, where commandos were training for another possible confrontation at sea.Maybe I'm just being negative, but it certainly seems to me that if there is an armed encounter with the Iranian ship, it could be the beginning of a war.
Israel warned archenemy Iran to drop the plan. The Iranian announcement came days after Israel eased its three-year-old blockade of Gaza under international pressure following its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last month.
"No one in their right mind can believe that a ship sent by the ayatollahs and their Revolutionary Guards has anything to do with humanitarian aid," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. "I don't think there is one single country in this region and beyond that would let such an ayatollah ship come near its coasts."
Security officials said the prospect of an Iranian boat headed for Gaza had Israel deeply worried, and that naval commandos were training for the possibility of taking on a vessel with a suicide bomber on board. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose operational details.
From here it seems that Iran, Hizbollah, and Hamas are just getting stronger politically (and militarily). Honestly, I think a war with one or all of them is inevitable - I don't know when or how it will begin, but I think there will soon be a pretty terrible war. I was hoping that my anxious feelings about war were just projections from far away, but the reality here is bad, and it doesn't seem to me that the current government has the wisdom to deal with a real war.
From here it also seems that Israel is getting more and more isolated politically, in part due to the stupid right-wing government which can't even manage not to antagonize the U.S. government (today the Jerusalem municipality just announced its plans to tear down 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan, which is just down the hill from the Dung Gate, and build an archaeological park there - the U.S. government immediately protested).
The right-wing government also seems to view the simple exercise of certain civil rights as anti-Israel (or maybe the exercise by certain people of those civil rights). I was watching the news last night, and one of the stories was about a conference at Ben Gurion University in the Negev held to deal with the legal problems of the Bedouin in the Negev - many of their villages are unrecognized by the state and therefore get no state services, including running water and electricity. The conference was intended to help people learn about the relevant laws and how to file court cases. The local prosecutor's office accused Ben Gurion of anti-state activity and threatened legal action against the university for doing something entirely legal!