In our country, beauty is something else – primarily, ownership. Loving the country, in Israel, means loving the process of uglifying it.
By Yitzhak Laor

Five years ago, a huge disaster was averted, apparently by chance, when a missile fired at the Haifa Bay industrial area almost hit one of the sensitive facilities located there. Had a fire broken out in this facility, it would have destroyed more than the area’s factories.

Now, five years after the Second Lebanon War, its successes and failures are once again being calculated, the inventories of all that should have been “fixed” are being reexamined and long-term thinking is once again being put off to a later date, to emerge only after a real catastrophe. So this is the time to remember that the main source of information is always the army itself.

Therefore, as though it were a bitter joke, in honor of the war’s fifth anniversary, we were informed that the army was erecting an environmental monster near the Bat Galim beach. One of Israel’s most beautiful sites, which can be observed while driving around the mountain and up the city’s streets, is going to get a “Polinum” – a mammoth hangar to house two submarines.

The Haifa municipality, whose officials have generated reams of bureaucratic objections to building balconies and closing in rooms on aesthetic grounds and made tens of thousands of shekels from fines for damaging the landscape, has tucked its tail between its legs, and that includes Mayor Yona Yahav. He, who once declared the project a “disaster for the city,” now sends his municipal engineer to tell Haaretz reporter Revital Hoval that the city has given up, because it did not want “the navy to leave the city” (“In the shadow of the Polinum,” July 17 ).

The navy, like the tycoons, leaves if it is restricted. The tycoons may move to Lake Geneva, and the navy may move to Atlit. It will take its assets, of course, and will really leave Haifa. Let’s put aside the questions of what beach it will destroy instead of Bat Galim and how much it will pay for another local authority’s consent. Suffice it to note, from the city engineer’s reply, the main point: The army is an economic power, which Israelis, too busy with their wars against cottage cheese and Iran, forget to take into account.

The largest employer in Israel is also the largest buyer, the largest contractor and a huge land owner. And together with the Defense Ministry, it acts as though it owns us. Even though we all take part in financing it, and not just the American taxpayer, the army also has a small state, which will put its cap on, stop smoking, wait for the commander to speak and then – lights out.

True, the army as a tycoon is uncomfortable. We don’t know how exactly to limit it without violating our most sacred values, because the army is our only religion of the masses. But construction of the monster in Bat Galim, on one of the only Israeli beaches that has not (yet ) undergone gentrification, does not just constitute another risk imposed by the government on residents of the city, which was once the most beautiful in Israel. It yet again reveals the Israeli citizen’s weakness, his inability to contend with the ruler.

But there’s something even sadder. When Defense Minister Ehud Barak, or the other colonialists, say “we’re in the Middle East, not Switzerland,” they mean something else that’s offensive: Why should we protect our little country’s beauty? We, i.e. those who have plenty of money, in any case travel to Switzerland, or other places, to see a beautiful country.

In our country, beauty is something else – primarily, ownership. Loving the country, in Israel, means loving the process of uglifying it.