I predict a baby boom in Israel this Spring. That’s more mouths to feed and larger apartments to rent, but the passion of protest and the warm mid-summer night air…It’s all pretty intense, in tents.
It’s an amazing amount of unity, kind of out of the ordinary for here, and, I guess, for Jews in general. Also, Joe Average, and his wife, Lily White-Citizen, seem to have awoken from some type of cable-TV-induced coma. It’s kind of cool.
As a member of the squeezed middle class – two hard working professionals (100+ hours a week of work between us, at least) buckling under mortgages, loans, taxes, groceries and general high cost of living – I want to embrace this social awakening more passionately.
But I am cautious.
I am cautious because the protest’s center is a boulevard named after, of all things, a banking magnate. No, that’s not really why, but I thought I’d point it out.
I am cautious because I don’t understand how to lower taxes and increase government spending, and not end up like Greece (or America.) I don’t understand how to demand better conditions for a large middle-class sector without making that sector shrink, thereby increasing the numbers of real poor, which are already alarmingly high. I am not an economist, but I am not entirely an optimist either.
I am cautious because operatively, I am not sure what can be done in a country with such a huge, mostly necessary, defense budget, and with such limited local consumer power given our small population.
It is also a country whose political system routinely gets hijacked by an entire sector (the Ultra-Orthodox) that only very partially joins the work force…and a system that feeds that cycle by consistently accepting and cynically perpetuating the status quo instead of trying to encourage a growing level of interest in work among the Ultra-Orthodox themselves.
I am cautious because there is a huge amount of unsettled, less expensive land in the Galilee and the Negev regions (both within the Green Line) that the government has been encouraging young people to “settle” for a decade. Homes in these peripheral areas are far less expensive, and the value of expanding into these regions goes well beyond the economic; it goes right to Ben Gurion’s pioneering dream. The populations in these outlying areas also tend to be poorer, so having young professionals move there to help build communities and economies goes to the core of social justice.
If we are serious about all this.
I am cautious because this generation watched while the Kibbutz movement more or less collapsed, even when Kibbutzim went corporate producing saleable products. Could we have saved the Kibbutz, the very model of social justice, we, who are screaming for social justice? Are we, perhaps, engaging in a form of regret? Nostalgia, maybe?
I am cautious because there is no one clear message to the protests sweeping the country; I have asked all of the above questions to supporters and gotten very different answers, all of them heartfelt and real.
I am cautious because I’m not convinced Netanyahu is at fault, or at least, no more so than anyone else who came before him. I hope this is not some cynical ploy to get rid of him for politics while crying populism. That would suck.
I am cautious because cries for social justice need to mean it, for everyone. It better not be about feeding one’s own belly. That would suck more.
Clearly, I want this movement to succeed so we can manage the grocery bills without feeling like we’ve just booked tickets to the Riviera. But even more, I want my less fortunate neighbors to be able to afford to live without the constant, crippling worry of an empty fridge and an emptier bank account.
When I hear tens of thousands of people (peacefully!) yelling for social justice, I get a shiver down my spine, in a good way. *Here* are the Jews! Finally!
It makes me hope this new found passion (about something other than land) is real, unselfish, the dawning of something solid, unified, prophetic. Is this the conscious, caring society which will bring light to humanity? The one we’ve heard about around youth movement campfires?
Is this the first movement – revolt – in a lasting people’s reform demanding accountability of government, balanced national budgets, fair allocation of resources, an end to corruption and nepotism, a reasonable amount of reward for work, and a charitable amount of aid to those in need?
And if so, does anyone have the gravitas to carry this movement from tent to “mishkan” – i.e. the Knesset? Does anyone have the clarity to know exactly what message they’d be bringing first?
Will the Taurus babies named Justice be coming into a brand new world? Or the same old one, via a sweaty tent?
I’m not sure yet.
It smells like teen spirit, but it’s still hard to see Nirvana.
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