NEW YORK (May. 24)
Ruth Shamir, a writer and an international lawyer, is not happy with the state of affairs in Israeli society. In fact, she is more than unhappy. She feels that unless something dramatic is done to cure the ills of Israeli society there is a danger that the country will be weakened to a point where its very existence will be in jeopardy.
“The moral foundations of Israel are crumbling. The social fabric is unraveling as a result of growing crime in the streets, inefficient bureacracy and deepening intolerance, ” the author of the recently published book, “AllOur Vows” (Shengold Publishers, Inc., New York), said in an interview here.
Shamir, who divides her time between her homes in Los Angeles, New York and Tel Aviv, said she believes that if Israel wants to exist as an independent state it must restore its original ideals and values of tolerance, understanding and respect between people “even if they do not share the same views or ideologies.
MUST STRIVE FOR INTEGRAL SOCIETY
“The animosity and hatred between people of different views in Israel is startling, ” Shamirclaimed. “The public expressions of hatred in the last general elections were terrifying.” Continuing, she said: “We must overcome our differences in Israel and consider ourselves as one, integral society without hate and division, otherwise …” Her voice trailed off.
According to Shamir, one of the reasons for yerida, the emigration of Israelis to other countries mainly to the United States, is strongly connected to the sad state of affairs in Israeli society and cannot be attributed solely to economic problems. “The issue for many Israelis who left Israel is the quality of life and not only the standard of living, ” she said.
Shamir is deeply disturbed, for instance, by the current doctors’ strike in Israel, now in its third month. “It is unbelievable,”she said. “Why are the doctors allowed to continue with this destructive strike that is simply destroying the medical foundations of Israel ?”
Another distressing issue for Shamir is the growing rate of crime in the streets of Israel’s large cities. She offered a personal example. “My 84-year-old mother, who lives in Tel Aviv, is afraid to walk the streets of the city. She does not leave her apartment after dark because she is afraid that she will be mugged or that her handbag will be snatched.”
What is the solution ? According to Shamir, the solution can — and must — be found within Israel society itself. “We must realize that we cannot continue to live as we do now. Israeli society must develop social awareness and educate itself for tolerance, for understanding between the various ethnic groups and the various political parties.” But, at the same time, she said she believes that American Jewry can play a major role in that development, “I think that the involvement of American Jewry must be larger — not only on the financial level. The State of Israel belongs to Jews all over the world, and it is their right, as well as their duty, to take part in all major decisions affecting life in Israel. Shamircharged that American Jews are afraid to criticize Israel because it might damage its image. “Israel is treated like a child, “she asserted, “the child of the Jewish people, and they refuse to find any fault with this child. ” She said it is time for American Jewry to realize that “the child is no longer a child. Israel must be seen as it is — with the good and the bad. ” Only by seeing and understanding the diverse and conflicting elements that comprise Israeli society can American Jewry use its influence to correct the wrongs in Israel, she said.
Shamir’s book, her first in English, is a fictionalized portrayal of an Israeli woman who returns to the country after many years in the United States to find that the Israel of her dreams and her memories has vanished; that the ideals of equalitaraianism that characterized the Jewish State in its formative years have now given way to self-aggrandizement, self-indulgence, military-mindedness and an atmosphere of alienation.
Shamir, who was born in Poland and came to Israel as a child, conceded that in many ways the story is her own story of search for the ideals that once prevailed, but, she added, it is first of all the story of Israel and its inner struggle to survive.