Tel Aviv – a liberal island in an increasingly right-leaning state

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Tel Aviv – a liberal island in an increasingly right-leaning state

ANALYSIS: The emergence of the far-right Religious Zionism Party has many residents wondering which country they live in.

Thousands take to the streets of Tel Aviv to celebrate Pride (Image: UK in Israel)
Thousands take to the streets of Tel Aviv to celebrate Pride (Image: UK in Israel)

“Tel Aviv is basically a separate state,” wrote one Facebook user after it became clear the next Israeli government will include the far-right Religious Zionism party.

The party, lead by proud homophobic extremist Betzalel Smotrich, received 15 seats and thus became the third largest party overnight, up from the previous five seats it had in opposition.

The anti-LGBTQ party and its racist rhetoric against Arab-Israelis and Palestinians is drawing headlines across the world, causing deep concern among Jewish diaspora communities who find it hard to comprehend that Israel has shifted so radically to the right.

Tel Aviv, which prides itself of being a secular, gay metropol of the Middle East, is increasingly looking like an anomaly in Israel, which is undergoing a huge societal change.

Religious Zionism party leader Betzalel Smotrich

The founding fathers of Israel were secular Zionist socialist who never in their wildest dreams would have been able to foresee a party like Religious Zionism being an integral part of any government, let alone the third biggest party.

But their ideologies and values have almost disappeared from Israeli society, finding a safe haven in inner and greater Tel Aviv.

Jewish diaspora communities find it hard to comprehend that Israel has shifted so radically to the right.

The failure of Meretz, whose stronghold is Tel Aviv, failed to enter Knesset on Tuesday, illustrating the disappearance of the once dominating left-wing.

Tel Aviv is still a city where openly gay people can live in peace and quiet without being harassed and where supermarkets are open on Shabbat, but it’s subject to religious coercion, forfeiting public transportation on Shabbat, despite an overwhelming majority of the city being secular.

With a self-proclaimed “proud” homophobe as leader of the third biggest party, whose dream it is to create a Halakha state based on Jewish laws, is Tel Aviv finally becoming the island it has been joked about for years?

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