Opinion |  From Tel Aviv to Riyadh

An old friend of mine, Uri Dromi, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, tells of an experience he had when he personally grapples with the necessities of life and let live in modern Israel. A few weeks ago, he and several Air Force colleagues decided to visit Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city east of Tel Aviv, which strongly supports Netanyahu's efforts to overhaul the judiciary, given how often it intervenes to curb power and co-benefit. of the ultra-Orthodox. Dromi has mobilized other retired airmen to oppose Netanyahu's efforts, and they have gone to Bnei Brak to try to understand how it can be “that under the same Israeli sky there are people who think very differently from me,” explained Dromi.

The night before the visit, Dromi called Hazvi's kosher Bakery there to arrange for the dozens of challah loaves that Jews often eat on Shabbat, along with a plastic bag for each loaf with the bakery's kosher logo on it. He used bread as his calling card, placing a note in each challah pouch: “Shabbat is dear to all of our hearts. So is democracy.”

That sparked several conversations that made Dromi reflect. He recalls an ultra-Orthodox woman telling him: “You pushed your liberal agenda on me, and I have to defend myself.” The woman added: “My husband studies all day and I am a computer engineer.” When Dromi asked why her husband was not working, she replied: “Because after the Holocaust we need big families, and someone has to keep the Torah torch alive.” To liberal ears, says Dromi, “it may sound like utter nonsense, but it is deeply believed by them.”

Dromi recalls how, as he sat on the bench, a young ultra-Orthodox approached him and asked, “What is democracy?”

“It touched my heart,” recalls Dromi. “I said, ‘In a democracy everyone is equal, like you and me, and if something happens between us, we go to court.' He said he was told that you can't go to Israeli government courts because ‘those are goyim courts,'” meaning serving non-Jews.

A day later, the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, told me that almost every Friday he and his wife go grocery shopping at the local market. He said the biggest question he gets from fellow shoppers whenever he's in the store now, regarding the talks he's having to broker some sort of deal on justice reform, is, “When will there be a compromise?”