Haifa – Americans speak of “Middle America” and Britons of “Middle England.” Both are near mythic places that supposedly embody the authentic character of the nation. Israel, too, has its “Middle Israel,” but it is very different from the place that Americans and Britons describe.
Rather than being somewhat provincial, Middle Israel is educated, bilingual or multilingual, and extremely well connected to the wider world. It has provided Israel with the high-tech success that it has enjoyed over the last decade. Middle Israel is mostly secular, though it also includes the moderately religious. It is liberal, and despises any sort of fanaticism, whether orthodox or nationalist. It is based on a strong, legally entrenched (though never perfect) ethos of gender equality that has typified Zionism from its start.
Middle Israel is also gay-friendly and distinctly non-xenophobic. It is mostly Jewish, though a young Arab professional class is now coming out of the universities and making its way – with difficulties – into the heartland of civil society. And, lest we forget, Middle Israel is earning the money and paying the taxes that support a wide assortment of traditionalists, fundamentalists, chauvinists, and other extremists – Jewish and Muslim – from Gaza to Jerusalem to the West Bank.
This quiet majority is under-represented in the Knesset because its members steer clear of political careers. It is far too large to be considered an elite. It is not exclusively urban, and it includes people of different cultural origins. It has a powerful common identity, shared memories, and a rich culture. It is neither inward-looking nor atavistic.