Lost tribes of Israel

Israel's five distinct political-demographic tribes are locked in a many-sided conflict over the future of its democracy. Is Israel a not-quite-finished Zionist revolution or a not-quite-finished Hebrew democracy?
June 19, 2001

A few days before the Israeli election a television roundtable featured, among others, Rehavam Ze'evi, the leader of a small, extreme party which is now part of Ariel Sharon's core of parliamentary support. Ze'evi is a former general notorious for proposing mass transfers of Palestinians from "Judea and Samaria" to Jordan. His friends call him "Gandhi." He was asked by the moderator how Sharon would deal with the Al-Aqsa intifada. "Sharon knows the Arabs, they care most about their homes," Ze'evi replied; "One more shot from Ramallah and we'll take down the first row of houses." The moderator then turned to a high-school senior, representing about-to-be-drafted youth. Showing remarkable poise, clearly from Israel's upper crust, the youth appealed for calm. Referring to Sharon's 1982 comment that the Lebanon war was fought for political aims, not a milhemet ein breira, a war of "no choice," the young man declared that his generation "will not fight a war of choice... Why should Israelis and Palestinians make each other quake in their homes?" he asked. Ze'evi faced the camera, his face all leather: "This youth is afraid of fighting."

Ze'evi is now minister of tourism and not a dominant voice in Sharon's government of national unity. But the rawness of the television exchange gave expression to a rift within Israel that no government unity agreement could paper over. For Ze'evi, the matter was settled. Oslo was dead, Zionism was in a life-and-death struggle. Israelis could not be friarim (suckers). The Palestinians were up in arms, with weapons they would not have had if the Oslo process had not given the old Fatah leadership the means to impose its authority in the Territories.

Oslo was supposed to draw Israelis and Palestinians into a period of "confidence building." Instead, the small, cumulative victories have been swept away. Consider one such setback: Dr Thabet of Tul-Karm. Thabet, a dentist and director-general of the Palestinian Authority's health ministry, was gunned down by Israeli forces in retaliation for a terrorist bomb that exploded in neighbouring Netanya just hours before. In a profile of his widow, Ha'aretz reporter Gideon Levy revealed that not only were Thabet and his wife open advocates of peaceful negotiation with Israel, they publicly credited their ability to have children to an Israeli friend who pleaded with her to be treated by a Tel-Aviv gynaecologist. ("The Israelis gave me my life, and then the Israelis took it 19 years later," Mrs Thabet said.) It was a relative of Thabet's, in a state of depression following the assassination, who shot two Israelis, Motti Dayan and Etgar Zeituni, out shopping for bargains in Tul-Karm.

The big blow to Oslo, it seemed obvious to Ze'evi-and many Sharon voters-was the vehemence of Palestinian negotiators regarding the "right of return," a demand widely interpreted as 3m Palestinians (1948 refugees, plus children and grand-children) exercising the right to make their homes in Israel proper, a demand that had given pause even to peace advocates like Amos Oz. Would this not mean an end to Israel as a state with a Jewish majority?

For that high school senior, however, the matter could not rest with the apparent failure of Oslo. He agreed with Ze'evi's assessment of the possible peril; he intended to join the elite paratroops, he said. But there was a subsequent question, which was about the nature of Israel itself and the meaning of his own impending sacrifice. Assuming Oslo had failed to produce a Palestinian partner for peace, what kind of Israel would he be expected to defend? The urgent question was whether Israel would conduct the continuing occupation with liberal democratic values or would revert to a previous state of affairs, personified by Sharon, the architect of expanded Jewish settlement. Democracy is not just majority rule after all, it requires a commitment to a permanent Oslo process in which individual suffering is not lost in abstract personifications of national will. A democratic Israel would promote peace, a framework for tolerance, not as a reward for Palestinian cooperation but as a kind of homage to the inevitability of conflict, which must always be managed and subdued. How much better off would Israel be now if, in 1967, it had occupied the West Bank without settling it, held Arab Jerusalem without annexing it, and invited international investment in an elected Palestinian leadership? What is a democracy if not a peace process without an end?

Nor are the risks of continued occupation only military. The day after the television debate I had lunch with five people in their late twenties, my cousins' sons, all living or working around Tel-Aviv's trendy Shenkin Street, all disgusted by Palestinian violence (two of them are brothers who lost their parents to a Palestinian airline bomb in 1974), yet also disgusted by Sharon's impending victory. One-call him Sami-used the occasion to announce plans to emigrate to Canada. None of his cousins condemned him for this but their reactions were predictable: "You will never be at home, you'll wake up every morning missing the sun"; "You will never be able to stand the synagogue Jews." Sami, who had spent a couple of years in British Columbia, responded, "I will have sheket [quiet] and what's wrong with that?" I asked him, "Is 'quiet' really the thing? Would you leave if there were a clear commitment to withdraw from the Territories, a separation of religion and state, a military draft in which everybody served, a unilateral declaration that Israel will consider Arab Jerusalem Arab, even in the absence of a final status...?" He interrupted, his eyes twinkling with vulgarity: "Bernie, aren't you too old for sticky-sheet dreams? Sharon is our Milosevic." Driving back to Jerusalem later, I noticed a bumper sticker: "I Have No Other Country-Vote Likud." The message was directed as much to my cousins' sons as to the Palestinians.

Israel is a site of contesting political cultures, habits of mind, circles of loyalty, in which different groups of citizens have experienced the peace process in quite different ways. For Sharon and his allies, Zionism suggests revolutionary agricultural settlement and military power defying anti-Semitism, a more or less literal biblical covenant-a determination not to be pushed out of Greater Israel. Posed against him is the emerging "post-Zionist" culture of greater Tel-Aviv, globalist, secular, animated, a polis of Hebrew-speaking citizens, idiosyncratically-in many cases, improbably-Jewish.

It is useful here to understand that young student and my cousins as members of the first of five distinct tribes or "demographic" groups, each numbering about 1m people or 20 per cent of the Israeli population. Each has its contrarians and with high rates of intermarriage lines are difficult to draw. Nevertheless, these tribes have a distinct political profile. And they have been talking past each other for at least a decade.

Tribe One. The more highly educated descendants of the old European Labour Zionist establishment, now living in North Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem's Baka'a. These Yefei Nefesh, or "pretty souls," held firm for the peace process. The affluent northern suburb of Kfar Shmaryahu, for example, voted 75 per cent for Barak. Contrast this with an 88 per cent vote for Sharon in Beit Shemesh, whose residents are mainly descended from the less well- educated, more Orthodox, working class and petit bourgeois Mizrahim-Oriental Jews who arrived from North African Arab states during the 1960s. The Yefei Nefesh see the state as an enabler, not the embodiment, of their cultural lives. In this way, they are far closer to professional circles in the US and Europe than to the Jewish settlers of the West Bank or residents of Jerusalem's pietistic quarters. Their children are drawn to the arts, scholarship and "high tech," and they expect to be a part of the world. They travel extensively after the army and then again for university, or for their companies.

Today, there are 200,000 highly skilled Israelis employed in Israel's 50 largest software and other technologically advanced businesses, contributing $25 billion to Israel's GDP-more than a quarter of the total. This far outstrips the settlers in numbers and economic power. Some 3,000 knowledge-based companies started-up during the past nine years, a greater number of start-ups than in any country apart from the US. The survivors, about 1,500 software (increasingly internet) and biotech businesses have been, until the recent downturn, thriving in Har Ha'hotzvim in Jerusalem, Herzliah, south Haifa. They see tourism-which presupposes Palestinian co-operation-to be a necessary 15 per cent of Israel's GDP and the sector most likely to provide good jobs for Mizrahi workers laid off from Israel's rust belt.

Israel's Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz, recently warned that the brain drain from the army and defence ministry research was Israel's greatest strategic vulnerability. For many Israelis who join the high-tech economy find themselves in Amsterdam, Santa Clara or Boston whether they work for an Israeli company like Check Point, or a global one like Intel. The real question is not, will the most talented young Israelis leave; it is will they come back to raise their children and in the process become custodians of Israel's democratic culture? In 1998, Gil Shwed, boss of Check Point, told me, prophetically, "Seventy years ago the kibbutzim built the state of Israel. I hope that high tech today can do similar things... In the short run, nobody is going to cancel a distribution agreement with Check Point because of a terrorist attack; our customers and stockholders assume a peace process is evolving. But in the long run, if the peace momentum flags, we will lose our edge in attracting top management to Israel-the economy will go downhill, and the impact will be measurable." Today, growth in Israel is already flat, tourism dead, foreign investment nil-though Check Point, with business growing in Redwood City, California, is holding its own.

As the dean of a new business school put it to me, "The 20 per cent of Israel that would be isolated by the collapse of the peace process cannot be expected to continue to provide the intellectual capital that translates into 80 per cent of the country's wealth." Unlike the old Zionists who preached self-sufficiency, such people expect a globalist culture. As many as 30,000 Israelis live in San Francisco's South Bay alone.

Tribe Two. The Mizrahim or "Second Israel" arrived in the country from hostile North African countries, especially Morocco, a generation after Israel was founded, and discovered a strangely socialist country, committed to Histadrut (the Zionist labour union) ownership of the means of production, unheard-of sexual freedoms, and a Labour Zionist aristocracy, which tried to engineer them into agricultural collectives. They embraced the Likud in the 1970s as an alternative to Labour. But in the 1990s, as integration and intermarriage accelerated, many migrated to Shas, a hybrid movement of increasingly xenophobic Orthodoxy and proletarian resentment.

Members of Tribe Two, the more insular Mizrahim-the peddlers of Machane Yehuda market, for example-do not oppose peace itself, only the social changes that would make it possible. Living on the edge of poverty, their political tempers are easily triggered. They regard themselves as having been no less dispossessed by the conflict than the Palestinians have been. They expect to see an Israel as Jewish as the Arab states are Muslim and as paternalistic-for as they once regarded themselves the chief victims of Labour Zionist control over the economy, they now regard themselves as the chief victims of a post-Oslo, globalist economy, which privileges the high tech world of Labour Zionism's children. They fear competition for jobs and housing from Israel's Arabs. They want an Israel that feels more like their large, warm families-observant, loyal, gritty.

Tribe Three. The institutional Orthodox, whose birth rates are twice the national average, fall along a spectrum from the ultra-Orthodox Haredi, or "awe-struck," communities of Jerusalem, to the followers of the messianic Zionism of the ethnically European Mafdal, the National Religious Party, whose spiritual centre is Bar Ilan University (where Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, was educated), and whose heroes are the West Bank settlers of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful). Both groups have become wards of the state. If a young man declares himself committed to a life of Torah study, he may be exempted from military service while his wife and children live on the dole. There are about 150,000 Haredi men in Yeshivot. The state also supports Shas sponsored schools, attended by Israel's poorest children; Shas pleases their parents with rigid training in Orthodox observances, a hot lunch and a longer school day. At the same time, defence and infrastructure investments subsidise (if we exclude what are arguably suburbs of Jerusalem) as many as 100,000 people in the settlements. The Haredi do not serve in the army; the Gush Emunim serve with a vengeance.

On the whole, the institutional Orthodox see the state apparatus as a crucial force protecting the Sabbath and other Jewish ritual law-and also the thousands of state jobs that go along with Rabbinic vigilance over marriage, burial, and kashrut. They want a Jewish state; equality for Israeli Arabs strikes them as anomalous. Their leaders speak of liberal Jews as purveyors of an indecent materialism. They see the Jewish state as a chance to escape the theological challenges and physical threats of goyim. As for the peace process, they joined Barak's government because he won but abandoned him, faction by faction, as soon as concessions became serious.

It is important to understand that the roughly 40 per cent of Israel's electorate which has persistently opposed territorial compromise is not only sceptical of Palestinian claims, but sceptical of both the cosmopolitan makeover any peace process would bring and the secular democratic coalition that it has engendered. This is more or less half of Israeli Jews. Though Barak, as a military man, got a marginally higher vote from these tribes in 1999, the peace camp has always assumed them to be hard-liners. Indeed, after Barak had failed at Camp David, losing Shas's support in the process, he tried to rally peace forces with the promise of a "secular revolution," which would ban the ministry of religion and mandate that all citizens, including Yeshiva students and Arabs, serve in the army. These reforms were an attempt to fuse all the forces in the country who grasped, however dimly, that secular democracy and peace were two sides of the same coin and that Israel would emerge from peace talks a different country from that which went in. Which brings us to Tribes Four and Five-the decisive players in the last election-Arab citizens ("Israeli Palestinians") and the Russians.

Tribe Four. Israel's Arab citizens were intent on making a strong statement this time and they did: 75 per cent voted in 1999, 95 per cent per cent for Barak; 25 per cent voted in 2001, and of those, 25 per cent cast a blank ballot. It is cold comfort that most of the small remainder voted for Barak. In Nazareth and Um-el-Fahm, where 13 protesters were shot dead by Israeli police at the start of the new intifada, the rate of voting was only 10 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. The Palestinian Authority (PA), in a last ditch effort, encouraged Israeli Arabs to vote for Barak, but the Arab Knesset members (MKs) who led the boycott told PA leaders to mind their own business. Aved Mar'am, an Arab MK, said it was "the Israeli Arabs' declaration of electoral independence..."

Israeli Arabs have come to understand that they are not just 20 per cent of the population, but 40 per cent of any conceivably triumphant peace coalition. Their electoral revolt was predictable and not merely because of the tragic deaths, which the Barak government handled with callousness. The surprise is not the show of strength, but that it took so long. Per capita income of Israeli Arabs is roughly half that of Jews. They are underrepresented in the civil service and professional life, and they are still not permitted any programme of national service that would enable them security clearances. When Barak put his coalition together, he refused even to meet with Arab MKs to discuss their possible participation.

The growing political consciousness of Israeli Arabs portends the kind of political revolution that Tribes Two and Three fear the most. If, as seems likely, the peace wing of the Labour party (led by former justice minister Yossi Beilin) joins with the left-wing Meretz party to form a democratic peace coalition in the Knesset, the Arab parties will almost certainly merge with them. And their deliberations could have far-reaching consequences for Israel's anachronistic laws left over from the Zionist colonial period: the Law of Return (which bestows citizenship on any legally defined "Jews"); regulations regarding ownership of land which makes it very hard to sell land to non-Jews; a prohibition of civil marriage, which makes intermarriage difficult, and so forth. In future elections, as they come to feel their power, Israeli Arabs might also be expected to play a more active role in the peace process. They have the most to lose from a further polarisation of Arabs and Jews.

Tribe Five. If there was a wild card in the last election it was the Russians. Some 825,000 can now vote, and 70 per cent did so (against 90 per cent last time). About 63 per cent went for Sharon, though 58 per cent had gone for Barak in 1999. This vote is so volatile because the Russian voter is such a hybrid. First of all, the Russians have come to Israel with higher levels of education than any wave of immigrants. Yair Shamir, a leading figure in the high tech community (and son of Yitzchak Shamir), estimated that a third of the software engineers and materials scientists who power Israeli start ups are Russians; they have raised standards in Israeli music, science and the arts. Second, most came to Israel, not for Zionist reasons, but to enjoy a style of life which they associate with the west. Ha'aretz's Lili Galili, who has covered the Russians extensively, says that a very small number practice Judaism and perhaps only half were (or considered themselves) Jews before they came. They dislike the Orthodox, whom they regard as a threat to the sophisticated and pluralist atmosphere of Tel-Aviv, where they are concentrated.

One would think that the Russians would be staunch allies of the peace coalition. Sadly, this is not the case. Though cultural liberals, they've generally retained the refusenik's suspicion of immanent world anti-Semitism and a Russian taste for the strongman. They believe in toughness, whether representing their corporate interest to the government (for housing or conveniently loose definitions of "Jewishness"), or Israel's interest to the international community. Barak was their ideal at first: Stanford-educated, sensitive to Israeli honour. His alleged capitulation to Palestinian demands over Jerusalem-at which point, Russian leaders Natan Sharansky and Avigdor Leiberman left his government-and his decision to call off the secular revolution which they supported left him looking like a paper tiger.

"They are for the most part immigrants without a Jewish or deeply Zionist identity," writes Galili, "so national symbols, such as Jerusalem, have become an important component of their identity." Sharansky has been particularly influential in this regard. But the ultimate fate of the Russian tribe is not in his hands, nor in those of any other politician. The Russians are still getting used to their country-the opportunities as well as the frustrations of freedom-and may well change the political landscape again, especially when the economic impact of curtailing the peace process is fully felt.

There is a pattern here. In a state of relative stability, Tribe One, the professional and economic elite, leads Four and Five, the Arabs and the Russians, and will eventually come to lead Two, the Mizrahi, and marginalise Three, the Orthodox. This is the Israel Rabin was shaping until his murder. But in a state of increasing tension, Two and Three will lead Five, alienate Four, and put One into a kind of internal exile-while presenting One's children with the terrible dilemma of having to serve in a national war they believe could have been prevented, or opt for exile in the global knowledge economy.

The die is not yet cast. Sharon actually got no more support in absolute numbers than Netanyahu had in 1999, about a third of registered voters. A slim majority in greater Tel-Aviv and Haifa continued to back Barak. The lopsided returns are explained by a 25 per cent overall drop in voter turnout-that is, by the collapse of support for Barak among Israeli Arabs, and a move to Sharon from "swing voters," mainly Russians. The 1999 election produced a landslide for peace, this one, a landslide for "unity"-the pendulum could swing again. The newspaper Yediot Aharonot now reports that a majority of Israelis support a freeze on Jewish settlements, though Sharon is asking the Knesset for $400m to expand them.

Moreover, the February 2001 election was the last in which Israelis will elect a prime minister directly. The Knesset recently reinstated the older system, where the prime minister is not directly elected but is the leader of a majority coalition in the Knesset. This reversal will, it is thought, force voters to support larger parties again rather than extreme splinter ones. But no law can change the fact that Israel is divided, and every election since 1977 produced narrow victories that empowered small ideological factions. Recent polls show 63 per cent of Israeli Jews now believe it "impossible" to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. For the peace coalition to regain power, Israelis and Palestinians have to regain the stability that marked Oslo's early days. Can they?

Sharon says he will accept a demilitarised Palestine on 43 per cent of the West Bank, with which he would sign a non-belligerency agreement, if the violence stopped-as if the PA leadership could agree to half of what it rejected in the eleventh hour talks at Taba. Sharon's unity coalition will organise around a more moderate line: no new settlements, only "natural" rates of growth for existing ones, partial agreements deferring decisions on refugees and Jerusalem. Saeb Erakat, one of the PA's most conciliatory negotiators, said that if these are the terms he will meet his interlocutors "in the next life."

Barak failed, after all, because he inherited impossible contradictions: periodic attacks from the Territories, which provoked the Israeli public to demand a PA crackdown on Hamas, but which when it came discredited the PA on the Palestinian street; a PA which had promised that peace would mean material improvement, but actually presided over deteriorating standards of living (especially in Gaza) and the "thickening" of Israeli settlements; an Oslo process which had to succeed in order to remove scattered Jewish settlements adjacent to West Bank towns, but whose very existence provided the incitements for the clashes that stalled those Oslo negotiations. In walking the minefield, Barak first displayed considerable balance. He tried to fight for Oslo as if there were no Palestinian attacks and fight the attacks as if there were no Oslo. It was only after the Al-Aqsa intifada gained momentum that the balancing act came to seem like the eccentric oscillation of an arrogant loner, ha'zigzag, leaving him few admirers.

But these are pretty much the contradictions Sharon has inherited-in an even more violent setting. If Oslo is finished, what can he and his Labour partners accomplish unilaterally? One poll says that 87 per cent of Palestinians regard Israelis as violent and 76 per cent regard Israel as responsible for the bloodshed; 48 per cent of Israelis regard the Palestinians as violent, and 61 per cent blame them for the bloodshed. Sharon had argued through the 1980s that the Palestinians should topple the Hashemite regime and set up a Palestinian state in Jordan. His government would not pursue such a plan today, but we might get exactly this outcome if the Israeli Defence Force (IDS) starts "taking down" rows of Arab houses in Ramallah, as it has near Jewish settlements near Gaza, and just blames the PA for every act of terror. Even Barak has advocated complete disengagement from the Palestinians, though how this would be possible around Jerusalem without the forced transfer of populations Ze'evi envisions, no one could say: the Wailing Wall abuts the Arab quarter, the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus is on an exposed salient between two Arab towns, the Talpiot promenade overlooks a third.

In retrospect, what was missing from Oslo all along was a stronger international (in effect, Nato-led) presence to help contain outbreaks of violence and manage their aftermath in the context of continuing negotiations. If a ceasefire can be restored, Israel and the Palestinians need to achieve some kind of "separation of forces," like the agreement with Egypt which ended the post-1973 exchanges of fire. Each side desperately needs a strong third party to trust without having to trust the other. Sharon says he wants an "interim" arrangement: why not make the presence of international forces, billeted in a recognised (if temporarily small) Palestinian state, a condition of the deal? For Israel's elite, eager to remain in the global game, international forces would raise levels of confidence among the investors, management groups, tourist agencies, and so on who are losing a sense of Israel's future.

This is not to underestimate the diplomatic and logistical difficulties of deploying American and European forces, especially in and around Jerusalem, or the challenges to Israeli sovereignty such intervention might pose. Israeli officials have a deeply ambiguous attitude toward the "blue helmets": they have bitter memories of UN forces evacuating the Sinai at President Nasser's insistence in 1967-Abba Eban called them "the umbrella that was taken away as soon as it began to rain." One young officer told me he fears that UN forces, especially if they were European, would seriously undermine the IDF's freedom of action in the Territories, becoming a kind of shield behind which terrorists might operate, as in Lebanon. In the absence of a final status agreement, would international forces have a clear mandate?

On balance, these objections are unimpressive. Nato forces went into Bosnia under more chaotic conditions. Barak and the PA came close to a final agreement at Taba; an interim settlement could be tied to a joint declaration to continue negotiations on the basis of the Clinton principles, which Barak accepted and Arafat might yet accept: a Palestinian state established on some 95 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza; Israeli settlers concentrated in about 5 per cent of the land, which Israel would annex, with Palestine compensated with Israeli land in the Negev; Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, including the Old City, absorbed by the Palestinian state; the Haram Al-Sharif falling under Palestinian sovereignty, and the Wailing Wall under Israeli; Palestinian refugees either compensated with cash, settled in Palestine, or, case by case, in Israel. This is the deal. But without international forces, it will always be a hostage to terrorism and, thus, unworkable.

As for that officer's wish to preserve Israel's freedom of action, this is precisely what the IDF has had since 1967. Insanity, someone said, is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result. Besides, which jurisdictions would Israel ever be able to exercise effectively without the co-operation of Palestine, other neighbours, and international partners? Water is getting scarce. If a Palestinian state is formed, neither side will be able to pump from the West Bank water table without affecting the other. And many plans for bringing water from afar envision pipes or canals that would pass through both Arab and Israeli territories. Israel and a Palestinian state will have to work together on transport links between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as on labour law, monetary policy (the Israeli shekel is still the major Palestinian currency), telecommunications policy and more.

Even the fear of the Palestinians' "right of return" seems a failure of imagination, for the political and demographic forces unleashed by any negotiated settlement will lead to pretty much the same result. If, say, 250,000 Palestinians are repatriated to Israel proper, what problems does a 25 per cent Arab minority pose to Israel that a 20 per cent minority does not? And even without any "right of return," there will be a dramatic expansion of Palestinian population in the triangle between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Nablus-eventually as many as 1m people, leading to a city the size of Amman. This will mean Israelis and Palestinians struggling with problems much like those of Singapore and Malaysia, or San Diego and northern Mexico. The Tel-Aviv-Haifa corridor, and the roads to it, will swell with a Palestinian labour force-for construction, light manufacturing, tourism. At the same time, greater Tel-Aviv will remain materially and culturally hegemonic. The language of work for tens of thousands of Palestinians is already Hebrew. Tel-Aviv will expand along the road and rail link that joins Herzliah, Netanya, and southern Haifa; it will become an international Hebrew-English megalopolis, anchoring the technological development of the region up to Turkey.

This is not the Israel that classical Zionist theorists dreamed of. But if the fundamental purpose of their Zionist revolution was, as the movement's first great mentor Achad Ha'am argued, to have a place in the world where Jews could express the "Jewish spirit," compete in the world without self-effacement, ask scientific questions in Hebrew (free from the hold of Orthodoxy) then the prospect could be worse. After his first visit to the Wailing Wall in 1893, Achad Ha'am wrote: "I found many of our brothers, residents of Jerusalem, standing and praying with raised voices-also with wan faces, strange movements and clothing-everything befitting the appearance of that terrible wall. I stood and watched them, people and Wall, and one thought filled the chambers of my heart: these stones are testaments to the destruction of our land. And these men? The destruction of our people."

Achad Ha'am had hoped that a Jewish national home would be heir to what he took to be Rabbinic Judaism's real achievement after the destruction of the ancient Temple, namely, a sense of divine intention that was endlessly debatable-an anticipation of the fractious, liberal values that he loved and believed had "overturned Judaism from within." If that hope is still worth cherishing, it will be realised, ironically, not by Israelis who consider their country a not-quite-finished Zionist revolution, but by citizens of a not-quite-finished Hebrew democracy.