PRESIDENT Ezer Weizman blames the three Ms: Madonna, Michael
Jackson and McDonald's.
When thousands of young Israelis stampeded the gate at a rock
concert in the southern town of Arad this summer, killing two
people and injuring 150, Weizman deemed it horrible proof of
"It should teach us to stop importing poor culture," Weizman
said, "and to seek a genuine Israeli culture and a return to
Weizman's words fueled a national debate over the direction
Israeli society is heading in an era of Middle East peace and
prosperity. Today, the desert is blooming with Ben & Jerry's ice
cream and blue corn tortilla chips, cable television and credit
cards. And like so many other countries, Israel is stunned by the
fast pace at which American culture and consumerism are taking root.
The issue of Americanization feeds into the national identity
crisis that the 47-year-old state of Israel is suffering as the
country ceases to define itself as a Jewish David in a sea of Arab
Despite their obvious affinity for Americana - as well as for
$3 billion a year in U.S. military and economic aid - Israelis
increasingly are questioning whether the dizzying construction of
U.S.-style shopping malls and American franchise shops is right for
Is this the dream of their Zionist forefathers, to build a
Jewish nation like all other nations? they ask. Or is Israel simply
losing its collective soul and Jewish identity to a
leisure-oriented, secular society?
"Behold the great paradox of classical Zionist ideology,"
social commentator and author Stuart Schoffman writes in the
Jerusalem Report, an English-language magazine. "The more we are
like all the nations, the less we resemble ourselves."
Israel defines immigration as "aliya," or a rise from the
Diaspora (Jewish settlement outside Palestine), and emigration as a
descent. Now, Americanization provides what Schoffman calls
"emigration and assimilation right here at home, without the air
fare or the guilt."
No one doubts that Israel is undergoing deep social change
along with the shift from the socialist ideology of its Labor Party
founders to privatization, from the one-channel government
television of four years ago to a cornucopia of private and cable
channels with information and entertainment from around the world.
The question is whether this is good or bad for the country,
whether modernization necessarily leads to the "Me Generation."
After Weizman's three-M remark, Israel's state-run radio
received a torrent of telephone calls from around the country. …