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Israel is undergoing its most profound transformation since 1948-economic growth and the peace process itself are creating a normal market democracy. As Israel goes to the polls, Julian Ozanne looks at the country's encounter with global culture and its struggle to redefine its Zionist mission

By Julian Ozanne   June 1996

On a friday night, when religious Jews are at home observing the sabbath, I recently took a Palestinian friend to a new nightclub in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. In front of us, to the pumping beat of heavy techno music, two Jewish transvestites in evening dresses and mascara gyrated their hips to wild applause. The atmosphere was thick with the scent of drunken sexuality.

For my Palestinian friend, the scene at the Q Club contrasted dramatically with the image of the crew-cut Israeli soldiers who have enforced Israel’s occupation for more than 25 years. “It’s like the last days…

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