Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXLIII. The Ma’abarot Stage (19 of 26)

What impact did that system of government had on new immigrants and in general on all residents?

If you’re a new immigrant, you need to cosy up to a political party, preferably a strong one, or better still one of the parties in power.

In ma’abarat Bat Yam, the Mapai (the most powerful party at the time) had an office to ostensibly help new immigrants.  In fairness to this party, they did help in the resolution of problems encountered by new immigrants; mostly in helping them to secure employment.

I did go to visit this Mapai branch, proclaimed to their official my attachment to his party, and my willingness to help at election time, and in between elections.  And I did get two good (temporary) jobs from the party.

The brother-in-law of a friend (I’ll call him Selim) was in a pickle; his wife was pregnant with twins (there was, of course, no ultra sound back in the ‘50s, but her doctor was reasonably sure she was carrying twins) and he needed permanent work.  Relying on temporary employment under these conditions would have put him in a precarious financial situation.  Selim was well-educated; in Egypt he has held a responsible position which required him to correspond with European firms; and he did that in three languages:  French, English, and Italian.  That, however, was in the past; now he needed a secure source of income.

He approached a left-wing party which had a lot of clout, the Mapam.  He informed them that he needed secure work and was willing in return to help them out. They promised that they would move heaven and earth to find him something.  And they did.

Shortly after his wife delivered two healthy babies, the Mapam office got in touch with him and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse:  They had a milk route for him!  Before you sneer, a milk route in those days was a cash cow! (Pun intended!).  Selim knew that and readily accepted the proffered opportunity despite the fact that he would have had to work very hard.

Note that in both of these examples, the parties helped educated individuals; they were less willing to extend help to less educated immigrants.  Why?  Simply because the help of a skilled and educated person is more valuable when you plan, strategize, and try to bring other people into the party’s tent.

To form a coalition, the party that has garnered the most votes tried to include parties that did not make onerous political demands.  And there, the religious parties were ideal.

They indeed did not make too many political demands; however, on the religious front, it was another story.

On Shabbat (Saturday), the country more or less came to a standstill.  No buses run in the main cities; Haifa was the exception because of its large Arab population.

The question of who is Jewish was another of their impositions.  Say a Jewish immigrant come to Israel with a wife who was previously Christian, but who had converted to Judaism.  The religious authorities do not automatically consider her Jewish.  Thus the question that I heard countless times during my years in Israel:  Mi Yehudi?  (Who is Jewish?)  So what is the answer?  In many cases the religious authorities did not consider the person as Jewish.  It’s a case by case type of question, and it takes a long time for them to settle the matter.

It gets worse.  Because the children are recognized as Jewish only if the mother is Jewish, in the above case even the children are not readily considered Jewish!  If I change my example and assume that the father converted from Christianity to Judaism, then the children, according to the Talmud, would automatically be Jewish since their mother is Jewish.  (And nothing on the face of the earth can change that!)  Jewishness depends on the mother; the father doesn`t count!  It makes sense though, you can be sure of your mother, never of your father!

The consequences?  Years of hassle to establish your Judaism and be treated like any other Israeli.

The religious community supervised Kashrut.  All meat had to be carefully inspected before being stamped as Kosher.  And here there were cases of corruption.

Uncle Maurice told us a story that became a classic in Israel.  Naknik (salami) that had been stamped as kosher turned out to include a very unkosher meat (I won’t mention what it was).  The corrupt (religious) official had accepted a bribe to turn a blind eye to the meat used to make the naknik.

The religious parties that are in the present Knesset are:  Shas, Torah and Shabbat Judaism, and National Religious Party.  After the 2009 election, they held 19 seats.

Space does not permit me to provide more examples of problems caused by this form of electing representatives to the Knesset.  But I will mention one more.

While elections were supposed to be called once every four years, often the government fell because the partners in the coalition were no longer able to work together.  The good news is that, lately, Israel has had more stable governments.  At the time of this writing (2012), the present government has been elected in 2009, and is nearing the end of its mandate in 2013.

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