When Israeli society gets it right

Israeli society is full of tensions. Never mind the Palestinian issue. You have religious divides. You have divides within the various religions. The role of women is under constant challenge. Two dominant sectors of the population, Arab and Haredi, are known for their large families and thus the problems that they incur. And so the list goes on.

The case studies of 7.7 million people can fill a libraries of sociology and psychology.

And yet? And yet for all the challenges, you have to remember the multiple successes that serve as a lesson for all. Here’s one very simple example.

This week, I was invited to a graduation ceremony for a young man. No – not at his university. He had just completed an arduous basic training course in the Israeli army. Roughly 25 gentlemen in the prime of their lives have been groomed to defend the country against various threats, which even the best Hollywood film cannot portray.

This military unit, hardened yet still untested,  is a cocktail of Israel. Very religious Jews and a member of the Druse community. At least two of Ethiopian origin and a few Russians. Those with good school records and those whose parents are still bearing the scars of poor report cards. Poor and better off. etc etc etc.

It was an amazing ceremony. Listening to soldiers – only yesterday they were horrible teenagers – describe their achievements to date was impressive. I was especially struck by the stories of how they operate together despite (or because of?) their varied backgrounds. It is difficult to know who to praise more, the training corps or the staff who pulled the unit together.

So what? Journalists, local and from overseas, are never shy at criticising what happens in Israel. To seek the divide is not just a national or international sport, it is just so very easy to do. However, sometimes the real stories, the stories that truly reflect society are right in front of us. We just need to ask ourselves the right questions in order to find and admire them.

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