After years of fragmentation, Israeli society seems to be consolidating anew – fusing Jewishness and nationalism, and decidedly on the right.
Since the 1970s the meta-story of Israel has been the steady crack-up of Labor, which, more than a party, was the central institution of Israeli life. While its policies ran politics and economics, its ideological synthesis of socialism, secular Jewishness and Ashkenazi identity shaped society, arts and culture.
The Yom Kippur War of 1973 delivered a shock from which Labor never recovered. One of the many reasons for that was Labor’s deep alienation from religion. Its founders were in deep dialogue with the religious traditions of their youths, and honestly saw themselves as creating a new Jewish culture with its own interpretation of Jewish ideas and history. Their successors had no such inheritance, and over time, less and less ability to offer compelling Jewish visions of their own.
Menachem Begin’s historic election, four years later, began the ascent of new groups and ideas – more rightist, capitalist, religious and Sephardic. Likud and its allies weren’t only challenging Labor’s policies, but attacking its unquestioned, firm hold on Israeli politics and culture. But Likud & Co. never attained Labor’s hegemony, and with the glue of Labor no longer fusing Israeli society together, the body politic splintered.
Yehuda Mirsky, “Understanding The New Post-Secular Israel”, The Times of Israel (13 March 2019) [https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/understanding-the-new-post-secular-israel]