I'm in Jerusalem to participate in the Israeli Presidential Conference, a giant talkathon mounted now for the fourth year by Shimon Peres, Israel's eldest living statesman. The conference center is a mob scene, with people not just from Israel rushing around to hear all manner of big and small shots (beginning with Henry Kissinger) opine on issues of gravitas. The theme this year is "Tomorrow," and the panel I'll be on--tomorrow--is entitled "Tomorrow's Religion: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution." The possibilities are a) part of the problem; b) part of the solution; c) both; and d) neither. Solution tomorrow.
Today, among other things, there was an interesting panel on The Arab Spring Tomorrow, featuring an array of figures from around the region plus Dennis Ross, everyone's favorite Middle East diplomat. Towards the end, the Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol allowed as how Turkey represented a pretty good example to the Muslim world of how to keep the religious and secular on reasonable terms, then went on to surprise the audience by suggesting that Israel too provided such a model. The Egyptian, Sherif El Diwany of the World Economic Council, agreed, noting that he had gone out shopping and been impressed by the diversity of Israeli society. "I wish that this can be transported to my country," El Diwany said.
At the moment, Israelis are faring more poorly than usual on the diversity front. They've just kicked out a bunch of illlegal African immigrants after herding them into concentration camps. They and the Palestinians are both experiencing a loss of faith in the two-state solution to their national problem. Settlers in the occupied territories are organizing for a mass protest against the government's plan to tear down a few homes built on land owned by Palestinians. The educational establishment is trying to figure out how to require ultra-orthodox men to get enough secular schooling to be able to actually earn a living. The ultra-orthodox establishment is, publicly, kicking back.
In other words, it's the usual Israel diversity mess. But to those in the Arab world awakening to the need to create a decent society for themselves, in Dennis Ross's words, "as citizens not as subjects," the Jewish State actually looks like a pretty decent place.