I am amazed….. and soooooo…..soooooo proud. Something happened that has never happened before. I don't know if it will last. I don't know if it will flourish. But it will have shown that it can happen. It will be the model every politician will need to take into account.
Last week I was returning from a five day stay at a Bedouin village down south. I dropped someone off in the sleepy town of Kfar Yona. I turned a corner at the municipal building and there they were: a bunch of tents sprawled on the green with young protesters and their even younger children. Arriving home I heard of a similar tent camp in our nearby Nahariya. Opening the radio I heard of tent camps protesting from way up north in the Upper Galilee down to Eilat in the south. The biggest encampment, daddy of them all, was up and down Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
The first tents decried the high cost of rental apartments for students, young families, and the normal middle-class. It came right in the wake of a Facebook protest of gasoline prices (I was not that interested), and then a Facebook boycott of cottage cheese (my defense mechanism chided the protest with "how can you complain about cheese when so many greater injustices were apparent all around us".), followed by a general slap at all milk products, and then came the tents and the rental protests. My cynical skepticism was wrong. The gas and the cottage cheese and the rentals were the harbingers introducing a general protest by a new generation crying singing and chanting "We Want Social Justice". Hear that?? Social Justice….a slogan which hadn't been heard in our country for many years (except by some of us outdated crybaby lefties).
Yesterday 150,000 protesters crowded the streets of our country. With no central leadership, with no central agenda, with no specific political color or flag, they were all telling ourselves and our government that the gap between rich and poor and, even more to the point, between rich and middle class has widened beyond bearable proportions……that the privatization of many social services…..that selling off our country's resources to private tycoons……that lax taxation of the rich at the expense of the rest of us……that slicing social welfare payments of the old and the confined……have made us a country owned by the 20 or so richest families that decide the economic fate of the rest of us……all under a government economic policy compounded by Bibi Netanyahu since his first round as economic leader and Prime Minister. "Bibi Go Home" were placards next to "We Want Social Justice".
150,000 marchers yesterday with hardly a need for police regulation. No stone throwing, no burning smelly tires. Playing guitars, pushing tots in strollers, singing, reading poetry, and speaking their minds loud and clear. Probably the most peaceful mass protest captured by any media in the Western world of today. But a protest with powerful reverberations in the halls of governmental power.
Its summer, its hot….but its not raining…..its vacation season from work……Universities are dormant till October. The tent camps continue to expand and to protest…….not about cottage cheese……but about life in our country. I don't know where this will take us. Perhaps nowhere…..today. But for tomorrow??..... perhaps these tents are the first real sign of a peaceful evolutionary revolution. After yesterday I reclaimed my pride at being an Israeli, in a country with people who are perhaps able to rekindle that "Light Onto The Nations". Make room for Social Justice. Here we come. Maybe.