A home of varied views. Concerns of a Jewish Israeli family. OVERHEARD IN ISRAEL
FRIDAY evening after the Israeli elections, the Ben-Shachal family gathered in their apartment in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem. Hadass, 23, came from Tel Aviv, where she studies computer programming.
Iris, 24, who lives in the nearby suburb of Pisgat Zeev, drove over for their brother's 19th birthday celebration.
The brother, Amir, was on a week's leave from his tank unit in the north.
The election results hung heavy over the spirit not only of this family, but of many others in the nation, who view with alarm the 18 Knesset seats won by the religious parties.
The father, French-born Yehoshua Ben-Shachal, is head of the Likud for the district of North Jerusalem. He survived World War II by hiding out in the Vichy woods with his mother, sister, and brother after his father was taken by the Nazis.
In 1949, at the age of nine, Mr. Ben-Shachal came with them to Israel, where he served in the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars. The governor of Hebron from 1978 to 1981, today Ben-Shachal is a partner in an international trade firm dealing in commodities.
His Jerusalem-born wife, Tzilla, works as a secretary with the children's section of the government-operated television authority. She has worked since Amir went to nursery school. As with all Israeli families, politics is much in the foreground of their lives.
Supporting different political parties is characteristic of many Israeli families.
BEN-SHACHAL says, ``I believe, as Begin did, that only the Likud can bring peace. From 1948 to 1977, the Labor Party only brought war. If the Likud decides after difficult negotiations to withdraw from the West Bank, it will be known there was no alternative.
``Although I am Likud, I don't interfere in the political ideology of my family,'' he continues. ``My wife and daughters voted Labor, my son Ratz [Citizens' Rights Party], my mother and stepfather Agudat Yisrael [Extreme Right, Religious]. I try to explain my point of view, but I respect everyone else's opinion.''
Nevertheless, he believes Amir supports the left-of-center Ratz, because ``he's never dealt with the intifadah. After the first stone he'll be on the right.''
Amir disagrees: ``I'm for Ratz because I want peace. I'm willing to give up the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem for peace,'' he says.
Amir thinks his generation is more extreme to both the right and left than his father's. ``Not many of my friends support Labor or Likud,'' he says. ``They're either for Ratz or Techiya [Nationalist Extreme Right Wing].''
Extremism among Israeli youth worries Amir's sister, Iris. An MA candidate in communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Iris has been demonstrating since the war in Lebanon. She says her boyfriend calls her a ``political animal,'' because ``I'm always on the street.''
She worries that ``so many young people voted for right-wing parties. There's a real split among Israeli youth, and it frightens me. I think war is inevitable.''
Hadass, who describes herself as ``concerned but not an activist,'' adds, `` - war with the Arabs and civil war between the religious and the secular.''
Preoccupation with politics is inevitable these days, but military service, studies, and work are also major items for Israeli youth and their parents.
``The main concern of parents raising children today,'' says Ben-Shachal, ``is the Army. You start worrying two years before they go in.
``I was in Paris when news came about the explosions in the Lebanese Security Zone [in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed]. I knew my son was in the area, and I really felt it.''
``My friends who are serving on the West Bank say it's hell,'' says Amir, adding that none of them as yet has had to shoot civilians. When he finishes the Army in 2 years, he hopes to ``take a trip to Europe and study film.''
Like many other Israelis who feel the need for a sabbatical from this overladen country, the Ben-Shachals lived in Paris for three years when Yehoshua was sent on official business.
There Mrs. Ben-Shachal taught at the Israeli Embassy School, which the children attended. Although she believes it's good for children to live abroad for a few years - ``they learn a lot'' - she believes it's easier to raise children in Israel.
``They have more freedom here and are outside much more. In Israel they can join the youth movements, which provide activities and trips. Youngsters abroad are more concerned with what's going on in the movies than on the news....
``When we married, we lived with Tzilla's parents,'' her husband recalls. ``Young couples today expect to own their own home as soon as they marry. We got our first car long after we married. A friend with a Vespa [motorcycle] was considered a millionaire.
``Today it's natural for Amir to borrow my or Tzilla's car. These are different times. When my children need money they come to me. Before I'd ask, I'd have to think twice - if they had it to give.
``Also,'' he continues, ``you couldn't imagine that if the father belonged to one political party, the son wouldn't follow. My children have their own opinions.''
Mrs. Ben-Shachal notes that relations are now between parent and child.
``Although I was very close with my mother, my relationship with my parents was more conservative. Today everything's out in the open. You could say we are friends with our children.
``And every week we pick up my mother from her home in Bat Yam [south of Tel Aviv] and bring her to visit us.''
Ben-Shachal isn't as close to his mother, because ``she's religious and her way of life is not the same. When I visit her, I put on a kippa and speak Yiddish. The last time she came here was two or three years ago, because we don't keep kosher and she can't eat. We aren't religious at all, but I give Bar Mitzvah lessons to friends' children free of charge. I like to do it because it reminds me of when I was young.''
``Many people are inactive politically,'' says Iris.
``They just want to live in peace. But that's very hard in Israel with so much happening around you.''
Even when they disagree, Yehoshua Ben-Shachal takes pride in his children's political awareness.
``What I tried to teach them when they were young,'' he says, ``is to love the country and to serve the country.''