Sunday, November 25, 2012

Politics Safed Style

Today is the primaries for the Likud political party. Who knew?

Let me explain a little about Safed politics. In Safed, Likud rules. The Likud is Menachem Begin's party, and it grew out of Begin's pre-State Irgun activities (underground, anti-British). He also was the biggest challenger to the Labor Zionists, headed by Ben Gurion, who was seen by the ruling Ashkanazi/Zionists/secular elite as the ONLY people who could possibly govern Israel.

There was a good deal of anti-Sephardic, anti-religious sentiment in those old Zionists who saw their vision of a socialist democracy as a sort of Garden of Eden.  There's a lot of discussion about how these old Labor Zionists (Golda Meir, held onto power by, basically, forcing religious people to send their kids to secular schools, refusing them health care unless they "towed the line" (politically), etc.

In fact, many people believe that what tipped the balance in the 1974 elections was when Begin mocked Labor by asking his audience of mostly Sephardic working-class supporters "are you really "chach-chachim?" (said while squinting at his papers, as though HE'D never heard of the derogatory term before, but was merely repeating something that he'd heard somewhere)...he brought the whole disrespect that the Ashkanazi elite held for the Sephardim out in the open, and before you could say "gefilte fish" had won the election.

Safed was always one of the bastions of anti-Labor sentiment and the old-timers remember only too well how anyone who didn't support Labor was shunted off to the side.

Unfortunately (for Labor, anyway), after the debacle of the 1973 Yom Kippur War,  the Likud was able to come to power and ever since then there's been pretty much of a 50-50 split between the two camps, with the power in the government bouncing back and forth between the two.

There's still an atmosphere, in Israel, of "Ashkanazim are more refined, modern, educated, etc" -- you see it on TV where the Ashkanazi-controlled media often makes fun of the Sephardim who live in the periphery.  (Safed, by the way, counts as the periphery). 

Which brings us to the primaries. Tzfat is, and always has been, a Likud town. So the Likud primaries, which are happening today throughout the country, are a Big Event. The voting is going on down the street from me and, from the crowd milling outside, you'd think that the suffrage movement hadn't ever gotten off the ground here. There were hundreds of men milling around, tons of signs, lots of garbage, and not a female to be seen anywhere. VERY male-bonding experience, I guess.

On another note, can anyone tell me how my dogs know when one of the family comes through the gate? The dogs can be inside the house which is about 20 meters from the gate, with no sound of visual contact whatsoever, but when the kids come in, neither barks and their tails start to thump.

1 comment:

Jane Gassner said...

My G-d, who knew this split existed! In America, Ashkenazi are the poor relations from the shtetl and Sephardim are our exotic cousins.