One of the icons of Israeli leftist culture, Joshua Sobol, during the campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu, defined religious Jews as stupid “mezuzah kissers”. This anti-religious perfidy contains the secret of the defeat of the Zionist Camp and the impressive victory of Netanyahu’s Likud.
Israel’s élite was crushed by the “second Israel”, the title by which the people who crowned Bibi again are known. Netanyahu won despite the establishment: newspapers, televisions, former ambassadors, former heads of the Mossad, former retired generals, all the writers and artists.
You see it from the electoral map. The Likud won in the capital, Jerusalem, and in the north and south of the country. The left dominated Tel Aviv and other cities in the center, the bastions of cosmopolitan, sophisticated, hedonistic, urban and literary Israel. Netanyahu dominated in the remote cities threatened by missiles from Hamas and Hezbollah, such as Kiryat Shmona and Nahariya in the north, and Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba in the south.
Even Arad, the southern desert city where the writer Amos Oz made his home, awarded vote to the Likud en masse. Ashdod, the third poorest city in Israel and one of the fastest demographically growing, continued to be a bastion of the right.
This is the paradox: the so called Labour Party is voted for by the rich sectors of Israel, while the Likud governs with the consent of the majority of the country living in the smaller towns, in what IIsraelis call the”peripheries” – far north and south – and in the “settlements”. Jerusalem is a poor city, where several shekels are a significant figure.
If Tel Aviv lives a life of power and acquisition, Jerusalem vibrates with Jewish identity. Many Likud voters are Sephardic, from Asian or African countries; enemies of Labor before they are fans of Likud. Many are devotees of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who spared no fierce attacks on feminists, the Supreme Court, and the left (“it does not take into account the human being, but only power”).
Netanyahu was not voted in by Kfar Shamaryahu, the richest town in Israel, where many millionaires and journalists live, such as Haaretz’s Ari Shavit. and the list of the richest Israelis, from Idan Ofer to Stef Wertheimer: they all vote for Herzog and Livni. Weren’t these the same billionaires who supported the Oslo Process in order to invest in the Arab territories?
The arch-enemy of Benjamin Netanyahu, Noni Mozes was also defeated in these elections. He is the mysterious publisher of the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth with vast properties in television. They are the scions of the Ashkenazi élite, the children and grandchildren of those Jews who came from north-eastern Europe, who built Israel with their messianic intelligence. Even today in Israel the taste of cosmopolitan culture, the great love for the theater and, above all, for music, are seen as typically Ashkenazi.
The others, the Sephardim and the Mizrahis, were segregated and pushed to the margins of the society, but today, in the army units and as a demographically, they constitute the core of Israel.
Like the Yemenite Jews, who, originally, with their large eyes, pointy beards and curly locks, looked like antique Assyrian medallions.
Many have come into their own in academia and the professions, but most Sephardic Jews still remain connected to tradition.
The doctor, the architect, the engineer with French, American or British passports – the same people who protested against Bibi’s economic policies – are able to leave Israel and reintegrate into the Western society.
But can a religious Sephardic Jew – or any Sephardic Jew, for that matter – go back to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Egypt? It is like after the Yom Kippur war, when part of the Left proposed the abandonment of Israel and the Sephardim said and repeat today: “We are staying”.
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter and of “J’Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel” published by Mantua Books.. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.