The Israeli Scene:
Politics, Painting, and Other Matters
AS IT recedes into the past, the Suez-Sinai war may produce only labored rhetorical echoes in the House of Commons, or lingering heartburn in the State Department, but in Israel it looks more and more like a kind of watershed-at least on the short-term view, which is the one Israel lives by. In the space of the subsequent two and a half years, the churning dust of the previous decade has begun to settle, and the more or less long-range problems appear to have crystallized. Financial crises and tenuous coalitions, the struggle to homogenize ethnically disparate communities, the entrenchment of militant mediocrity in the arts, and the hardening arteries of a self-perpetuating “Establishment” which periodically tries to rejuvenate itself for lack of responsible alternative leadership, seem to be the permanent problems calling for solution-though the longer you live with them the greater the danger of feeling them part of the order of creation rather than remediable blemishes. Thus many factors that long seemed transitional now appear to be abiding aspects of the Israeli scene or situation. The familiar sense of siege is still there, but it has been pushed back a few yards in the individual consciousness, though there are recurrent reminders of the hostility of the environment. The recent Syrian shelling in the north that caused a million pounds’ worth of damage and the incidents that have followed it, if continued, may well provoke sharp retaliation and renewed tension. Nor has the Israeli’s sense of isolation been greatly lessened, but by turning increasingly to internal problems he can more easily ignore it, except when it appears as cultural provincialism-where isolation is imposed by the four solid walls of the local mind. This election year may exaggerate certain aspects of Israeli life, but it also tends to illuminate some others.
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