First post from the Israeli blogosphere

Israelis who blog in English are mostly native speakers who immigrated to the country as adults. They include non-Jews as well as Jews, represent a wide range of religious beliefs – from secular to Orthodox – and their political opinions run the gamut from right wing to left, with everything in between.

Perhaps due to the recently ended three-week High Holy Day period, the usually lively Israeli blogosphere has been a bit quiet lately. I think that another causative factor is the recently-completed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

In mid-September, Israel ended its 38-year occupation of Gaza, which is the home of about 1.5 million Palestinians. The Israeli government’s decision to evacuate the 8,000 Israeli Jews who had settled in Gaza over the previous two decades caused an enormous amount of controversy. The rhetoric of the anti-withdrawal movement was very strong, and as a result many feared that the protestors would become violent. Up to and through the actual withdrawal, the domestic media reported almost exclusively on what the government termed the “disengagement.”

The controversy extended to the Israeli blogosphere, with pro- and anti-disengagement people exchanging some rather harsh words in their posts and in the comment sections. One striking example is a post, written by a pro-disengagement blogger, called I Have Seen the Enemy and it is Orange (orange was the colour adopted by the anti-disengagement movement). It was followed up by this post. For an indication of just how much of a hot button issue the disengagement was, read the comments section.

Since the disengagement ended in mid-September, I sense that many Israeli bloggers are wondering what to talk about now – and I think that is one reason why quite a few have gone on a sort of mini-hiatus.

Some interesting recent posts include this one, by an Israeli-Brazilian journalist named Rinat who lives in Jerusalem. Rinat was outraged to discover that the supermarket in which she has shopped for two years recently instituted a new policy requiring female customers to wear a skirt. She has decided that she cannot take life in increasingly ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem anymore, and plans to move to secular Tel Aviv as soon as possible.

Over the past two decades, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population of Jerusalem has increased enormously, outnumbering moderately religious and secular Jews in many parts of the city. Two years ago, the city elected its first ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupolianski. Many secular Jews feel that the ultra-Orthodox have too much power in the city, and that they are imposing their lifestyle and values on the rest of the population.

Don Radlauer, a resident of a non-ideological West Bank settlement who defines himself as a political centrist, questions the demands of the evacuated Gush Katif residents. Do they really have the right to demand that financial compensation that would provide them with the same high standard of living they enjoyed in Gaza, a government-susidized lifestyle that middle class Israelis who live inside the Green Line could never afford?

Jerusalem Gypsy writes a humorous account of her recent visit to the home of her new neighbours – who happen to be Messianic Jews, or Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Shai writes an interesting entry about the decline of the Israeli Labour party. Labour, the party of the late Yitzhak Rabin, was until recently one of the two most important political parties; it led the country from 1948 through 1977, when it lost for the first time to Likud – then headed by Menachem Begin, and today by prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last Labour prime minister was Ehud Barak, who lost to Sharon in 2001. Since then, the party has been in a steady decline.

At Israelity, a group blog that has a self-imposed mandate to write about life in Israel beyond the conflict, there is a tongue-in-cheek post about the number of celebrities who have visited Israel this month – including Willem Defoe and Bill Gates. Due to the fear of terror attacks, there were very few celebrity visitors in Israel from 2000 to 2004, when Madonna visited the country for a kabbalah conference in Tel Aviv.

Bert, a native of the Netherlands who writes at Dutchblog, reminds us that terror does not distinguish between Jews and Arabs, Christian, Jews and Muslims. One of the victims of last week’s bombing in Hadera, a town in northern Israel, was an Arab-Israeli named Jamil Qa'adan. The physician who pronounced Jamil’s death at the Hillel Yaffe hospital was an Arab Israeli who also happened to be his close friend.

Living in Gaza City is a new blog by Imaan, a Swedish woman who is married to a Palestinian native of Gaza. Recently, they decided to move to Gaza so that their young children would get to know their father's family and learn more about their Muslim heritage. Imaan, who is a 30 year-old convert to Islam, writes about the many difficulties she is experiencing as she struggles to adjust to life in her new home. She also stresses to her readers that she has no political axe to grind, even though it is obvious that her life is often adversely affected by politics. Although she rightly belongs in the Palestinian blogosphere, I mention Imaan here because I became aware of her after she commented on my blog; we exchanged a couple of emails, and I plan to visit her the next time I am in Gaza. (Soon, Imaan, I promise!)

On a lighter note, Anglosaxy - a non-Jewish Brit who is married to an Israeli woman, describes his revulsion upon learning what, precisely, goes into a popular Yemenite-Israeli dish called “leg soup.” (You might not want to know).


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