Israelis are living in Paradise - and denial

17-09-2017 4 min #133122

Gideon Levy جدعون ليفي גדעון לוי

No other society is living in such a deep state of denial as Israel. That's why there is no chance of change here in 5778

The Jewish year just ending, 5777, has been a wonderful one. The summer was chock-full of musical events - there's never been a summer like it in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park. They all performed there, in spite of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and Roger Waters. They say people had a great time. The winter also brought a lot of pleasures, as did the spring and fall.

Never have so many new cars been sold here (except for the preceding year). Jeeps are first and third in the sales chart. Ben Gurion Airport recorded yet another record in passenger numbers, both departing and arriving. Almost everything's sold out: Try getting a restaurant reservation. Try snagging a flight to New York. Try getting a tracksuit at the new Decathlon sportswear store near Tel Aviv. Try getting a parking space. Try pushing your way through the crowds at Tel Aviv Port just before sunset in late summer. Cocaine at nightclubs is selling like water, as is the alcohol.

Entertainment centers are packed, as are nature sites. There are shopping malls at every intersection. Parking lots on every corner, but not a parking spot. The concept of rush hour is a thing of the past: now there are constant traffic jams. And every worker has long since had a car.

Europe is exploding with terror attacks, while here there are a few people with knives on the other side of the dark hills in the territories. It's safer on our city thoroughfares at night than in nearly any Western capital. Europe has millions of refugees, while in Israel there are barely 40,000 asylum seekers and only one managed to slip through the fences this past year.

It was a year without war, even during the summer. There may have been soccer defeats, but there was a historic medal in rhythmic gymnastics. Unemployment was down and life expectancy was up. There are construction cranes in Tel Aviv, just like Shanghai. There is no street without a construction project. High-rises are sprouting up, along with traffic circles, tunnels, excavating, paving, expansion, preservation and renovation. The whole country is full of construction dust.

The café talk is all about the same thing: money. Try and listen. It's about money in all its forms - how much this and that costs. Prices are sky-high but the protests have fallen flat. Because that's how it is in paradise when everything is rosy.

Some are suffering and some are downtrodden, but their voices aren't heard. The people are exultant; please don't bother them. Demonstrations are bad. They disturb the neighbors and cause traffic jams. Police investigations, corruption, criminal cases - they're also bad, but not enough to stir the people. A new gourmet Asian restaurant has just opened and they say it's fantastic.

From the outside, it looks unbelievable. From the inside, it looks equally unbelievable. Such a bad year disguised as such a good year. The rot has spread at frightening speed, extending to every field, while the exaltation has increased at the same pace. Democracy is being damaged daily, even for Israeli Jews. There have been more and more crazy decrees, yet Israelis say everything is fine. On International Happiness Day this year, Israel was ranked 11th - between Sweden and Costa Rica. And the United States? Israel is three places higher. What more can we ask?

It would be so good if it wasn't so bad. There is no other society living in such deep denial. Israel has never lied to itself like it is doing now. Every package tour and Mini Jeep has only intensified the repression and the blindness. It's a dance of self-deception, a national orgy of distraction. Those suffering don't count. Distress is hidden, the rot covered up. And the media participates enthusiastically.

Few people have any idea what's going on here at night in the nightclubs. Ask any cabdriver and he'll tell you. Few also know how horrible the ignorance is among young people, and what this says about the future. Few are concerned by it. Few know what the occupation looks like, and even fewer want to know. Few know where we're headed, and few want to know. In such a state of affairs, no positive change will take place here. Why should it?

All of the signs indicate we will be blessed in 5778, just as we have been in the past year. No more prophesies of doom. No more sowing despondency. Israelis are exultant, and Israelis know why.


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