Monday, August 29, 2011

Our Social Tent Protests and the Baby Turtles

Its been a hot and busy Israeli summer, pockmarked by so many small protest tents around the country, all demonstrating the need for a radical "change". But wait……I'll get to that……. first something about the turtles.

The little turtles are about two inches long as they hatch on the Betzet beachfront near our home. Their elderly mothers swam perhaps thousands of miles to home-in on many centuries-old remembered spots of Israeli beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. These centuries-old spots are today filled with skyline buildings, factories and industrial garbage, hotels and people garbage. Eggs left in these municipal sands would crumble under the weight of our coastal development. Stubborn nature paramours gather the eggs and bring them to a protected area along our northern beachfront….Betzet beach, where the Betzet wadi\stream ends its journey from the eastern hills to the Mediterranean. Here the baby turtles hatch and clumsily scramble their way through the sand back into the open sea.

Standing on the beach, with my back to the sea, I see trees and local shrubbery….no hotels, no factories….just nature at its pastoral best. No longer does any other such beach exist along the northern Israeli landscape between our border with Lebanon and Haifa………..and perhaps this too will vanish. Our local oligarchs with the help of our government's Land Authority are planning to add many hotel buildings to this last vestige of open nature. Standing with my back to the sea I'll view the encroaching development of our Israeli capitulation to the wealth of our oligarchs. Those two-inch baby turtles won't hatch and grow to over two feet. But aside from turtles…..also people….I and my neighbors from far and wide won't enjoy the one natural sanctuary left along our northern coastline.

We've been fighting the change for over two years now….petitions, meetings, etc…..We thought we made headway, and found we've been outflanked. This summer we set up a large protest tent on the beach and have enlisted the signatures of the many Israelis who come here because it truly is the last real natural sanctuary along our northern beachfront. We have more than 30,000 signatures and a few thousand letters sent to government ministers, but in the context of a country whose economic and social policies are dominated by a right-wing oligarchy and "Tea-Party" ideologues, I fear our pastoral summer on Betzet Beach may be our last.

Meanwhile, a ten minute drive from our Betzet protest tent returns me to the bustling Nahariya intersection where a small tent town has sprung up and has become our local protest station and our identification anchor with the massive protest tent city which rose this summer along Rothschild Boulevard in Tel-Aviv. I've been a frequent visitor and supporter of this small tent town, so peripheral from the main action. Each evening, surrounded by a few tents and protest signs, gather a strange mixture of people representing the normal Israeli street. No, not a town-hall session of many……..just twenty or so people of various political and social backgrounds (different people from evening to evening)……from a homeless to a well-to-do contractor…….from a Bibi-lover to an old-time communist…….and everything in-between…………and they talk……together……wooowww!.....and not just about the destruction of nature….but about the destruction of humans and values…..The words "Social Justice" have come out of hiding and are hitting the streets in every town and city…….including our backyard in Nahariya.


Evidently the evening gatherers really do agree on something…….they agree that something is seriously amiss with our economic and social policies; that our governments have created a society with a vast gulf between the very rich and everyone else; that allowing the richest percentile to be the guiding force of our economic policies, has turned our social democracy into an economic oligarchy; and it all shows up in our shopping cart….from the price of cottage cheese and milk to electricity and gas, from the cost of housing, rental or bought, to the structure of our taxation, from the cost of "free education" to the strangulation of social services; but mainly, perhaps, by placing a "Tea-Party" social ideology and what has been branded as "Piggish-Capitalism" in the forefront of our policies during the past 35 years, with Bibi Netanyahu being its main leader and proponent during the last 20 years. The people coming to these evening get-togethers at the Nahariya protest tents are evidently asking for a more "human" approach to social and economic planning. Do they have answers?? Not really, it seems. They want the people "up there" to change things. Are they representative of their neighbors?? Perhaps they really are…..maybe. Why do I say this?? Because it seems like the people "up there", including Bibi, are beginning to act and look slightly worried. They are even proposing some interesting changes to their long term economic and social doctrines. Will they actually change something?? Perhaps a little, no more, just enough to brag about at the next elections………. Will the next elections bring on the change??…..I've too often seen how the very people most hurt by our "Tea-Party" ideologues continue voting them into office. Does the mass show of disapproval in the tent towns and demonstrations around the country show a real change?........again, maybe….. so keep plugging away, keep supporting…..don't let go. Keep constantly in mind that the call for social justice reverberating around the country was so much the result of a variety of nameless individuals with tents as their weapons and who wouldn't let go.

There is a straight line from our two-inch baby turtles and our natural beach at Betzet to the motley bunch of protest tents in Nahariya with the cry for social justice. Its all about what kind of human beings, what kind of public, and what kind of nation we'd like to be. Perhaps it’s the same line that will lead us to re-examine the kind of rapport we'd like to build with all of our neighbors in a country which once more (can this really happen?) places social justice in the forefront of public concern. Perhaps there is still a slight chance for "Ki me-Tziyon Teitzei Torah".

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