Oy, a broch, goes the Yiddish adage, usually accompanied by a deep, heartfelt sigh.
Oy, Naftali, Naftali, why did you have to go and fix what wasn’t at all broke? How could you be so stupid? And who are your advisers? Send them home!
My friend, the late, beloved, feisty radio host and television director Adir Zik, spent many an on-air hour bewailing, ridiculing and condemning what he used to call “Ha’chip ha’dafuk,” the screwed up chip of the National religious Israelis. How can it be, Adir would argue, that the country’s most productive community, its least cynical, most eager to serve, most moral and, by far, most stable and reliable men and women would be portrayed by the media (he coined the term Tishkoret, a play on Tikshoret-communications, and sheker-lie) as nothing better than parasites, suckling on the government teat, thugs with nothing better to do than terrorize defenseless Arabs, uprooting their olive trees and stealing their herds. How is it, Adir wanted to know, that when Prime Minister Rabin is murdered under murky circumstances (a lot of details are still not clear on that one) a group of more than one million citizens is blamed for it, and made to feel like pariahs in their own country.
But most enraging of all – how is it that these sweet, giving and moral people are accepting second-class treatment from their government—across the board—in the name of the “good of the state” (Mamlachtiut)?
That, Adir determined, was because of the broken chip inside the brain of every National Religious Jew. The defective chip was genetic, inherited from one’s National Religious parents. Essentially, it helped its carrier to accept their rank as second class citizens in a country they built with their blood, sweat and tears.
This is why their party, the NRP, Mafdal, was represented in the voting booth by the letter Bet, B. Only Mapai, the center-leftist precursor of today’s Labor party, had the letter Alef. “We have the letter Bet,” Adir used to say, “because we think we’re Sug Bet – grade B.”
I elaborated this much about my beloved friend because last night I watched in horror how the screwed up chip theory proved right once more. I watched Naftali Bennett, the great white hope of the NRP crowd, backtracking from what I had thought was a brilliant strategy.
True, he said he wasn’t apologizing; true, he actually repeated his view that an order to uproot people from their homes, be they Arabs or Jews, would be an assault on democracy. But in the end, he pulled the Mamlachti shtick, the “good of the state” demon, and put it squarely on his own back. For the record he stated that, if push comes to shove, a command is a command, and a soldier must obey orders.
Sure, he whined a lot about being misunderstood by the media, and about the Likud attacking him for the sake of another quarter seat. He even challenged Netanyahu, demanding to know whether or not he would evacuate Jewish towns. But in the end, what the media in Israel has been selling at high volume is that Naftali Bennett retracted.
On a different show, Friday morning, Moshe Feiglin held his own against a hostile panel, telling them that disobedience is a fundamental democratic duty – not just right, but duty. I would advise Bennett to hire Feiglin as his campaign manager – both of them could do worse. Feiglin would soar in a big party where he wouldn’t have to sell his principles to the likes of Chayim Katz, and Bennett could benefit from the experience, imagination and resolution of an excellent warrior.
The January 22 elections are an opportunity for more than one million National Religious voters to get rid of their second class mentality, dislodge the broken chip. We deserve to be the largest party in this country because we have an equal footing in Western culture as well as our own tradition. We are the best that this country has every produced, and we should be the best at leading it, if we start thinking of ourselves as a real, unified movement again. And, according to the polls, a significant chunk of secular Israelis are prepared to vote for HaBayit HaYehudi because, for once, its leader has a lot of sensible things to say about issues other than the Hesder yeshivas and the settlements.