A Liberal Zion?

In March of this year, the Jewish state was like a single organism whose arteries were straining to strangle one another. I visit the country regularly, but this spring I found it in the throes of a fever which has by now launched a new era of Israeli history. Liberal Zionists, freighted with the responsibility to cleanse and heal the country which Netanyahu and his brutish government every day besmirch, have taken to the streets of many cities and towns each Saturday evening since the seventh of January. Politics is the content of their struggle, but pain preceded politics. It was an intensely uneasy time. The country felt as if it had been violated from within. The mutual hostility and horror with which Israelis considered members of their own society, their own historical family, was staggering. A sort of primal shock seemed to permeate the country. And this time the state’s wounds were entirely self-inflicted. One Saturday afternoon of that inflamed month, my father came home from synagogue and even before taking off his coat reported in a low, unfamiliar voice that the congregational leader whose responsibility it had been to offer the weekly prayer for the welfare of the state of Israel had broken into sobs mid-verse. I was staying in Jerusalem; it is at once fortifying and discomfiting to run oneself over the grooves carved by history into the topography of that city. I waited for the Sabbath to set with the sun and then joined the protest which that evening, like the eleven preceding Saturday evenings (as I write the nineteenth weekly outpouring has just occurred), surged by hundreds and even thousands to the residential square in front of the President’s House to protest the disgraceful fascistic devolution that Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government was perpetrating. When

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