It’s always hottest at the end of summer. I am not a meteorologist and I have not checked the latest statistics. I just know that right now, the sun’s rays are searing, the ground is dry as a bone and everything (and everyone) outside just seems limp and faded.
That is, everything except the hyacinths. Just when the summer heat seems to have baked our landscape and our senses into a dry, dull yellow, the hyacinths go into full bloom. There is something special about the hyacinths. How do they know – in the middle of this never-ending heat wave – that the seasons are about to change and that autumn is just around the corner? Obviously there is a botanical answer to that question. But for me, the hyacinths are a reminder of God’s Invisible Hand behind the scenes, directing every last detail in our world and bringing these exquisite flowers to bloom just when we have been convinced that the heat and dryness of the summer will be here forever.
Currently, the hyacinth phenomenon is being played out in Israeli society. In the midst of the insufferable dryness and pessimism so prevalent in current Israeli culture, beneath the gloomy headlines and the permanent despair that have become part of our lives, Israeli society has begun to wake up. Behind all the politics and repulsive scandals, we are witnessing a Jewish renaissance.
Let’s take, for example, the Jewish music scene that is in full creative bloom. Aharon Razael, Yonatan Razael, Ehud Banai and Shuli Rand (to name just a few) are regularly featured on mainstream Israeli radio by virtue of their talent and clean, rich compositions and lyrics – and not just to allow the radio stations to claim that they also cater to the religious public.
The authentic Jewish creative culture to which we are being treated is just the tip of the iceberg. Israelis are searching for their Jewish identity. The “Israeliness” that was supposed to have replaced Judaism – instead of endowing it with the depth of statehood – has turned out to be a false savior. So on whom can we rely? On Israeli politics? On its justice system? On the educational system? On our invincible army?
Israelis are returning to their roots. Not in the same way as in the ’70s. Israelis are returning to their Jewish roots without making major changes in their lifestyles. They are remaining in their neighborhoods and in their social circles and workplaces. They are simply putting more emphasis on their Jewish identity. Like the hyacinths, something is blossoming here before the change of seasons. A research poll publicized a few months ago showed that young people in Israel are more traditional than their parents. The researchers expected just the opposite. Once again we see that the typical image of drugged teenagers partying throughout the night conceals what is occurring under the surface. These young people have lost their faith in the system – and are returning to their roots.
What is most surprising – and what you will not see in the media – is the fact that the average number of children per family in Israel is the highest in the Western world. And no, it is not just due to the high birth rates of the religious and the Arabs. “I’m working on my fifth,” an obviously pregnant secular broadcaster recently told me. “Is that unusual in your circles?” I asked her. “Not at all,” she answered, smiling. “In the afternoon, the backyard of our North Tel Aviv [upper- class, secular neighborhood] apartment building is filled with children playing.”
This coincides with what Yoram Ettinger and his staff of researchers have been saying for two years. There is no longer a demographic problem in Israel. Israelis are having at least as many babies as Arabs.
To the best of my memory, the last time that Israel experienced a baby boom was after the Six-Day War. That was a logical occurrence. The great victory and the romance of Israel’s return to the Land of the Bible created a sense of prosperity and national awakening that was reflected in the individual and the family. But now? With all the new Olmert scandals? With the wholesale release of terrorists? With the Iranian threat, the Kassams and all the other reasons for despair? What is the source of the optimism?
We are at the threshold of a new season. Just ask the hyacinths about the Invisible Hand. Somebody up there is waking us up and commanding us to blossom.
Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit (the Jewish Leadership movement), dedicated to building authentic Jewish leadership for Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.