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Protests in Israel: The Destructive Gap Between Hardliners and Democracy

Normally, it is the duty of a Shaliach to speak to his local community in times of crisis in Israel. Whether it is a Flotilla, a military operation or a full-scale war, this duty connects almost solely to external threats on our Jewish homeland. Fortunately, such occasions were not my share in the time since I have arrived in Munich, and now, one month before I am moving away to Berlin, I have found a wonderful opportunity to speak to you…

Roy Siny (German Version)

No, I would not describe it as a crisis. I would certainly not call it a threat. In fact, for years and years, we were brought to believe that Israel’s only threats are those who are coming to it from outside its borders. During all of this time, every internal problem, every sight of a gap, were marginalized in the Israeli political discourse.

The pioneering generation that established the state of Israel handed the following generation a model-state: a place where everybody belonged and everyone felt that his contribution went to the benefit of all and to the building of this miracle state.

This second generation, though, molested the trust given to it. Instead of continuing the work of their predecessors, chose the tenants of this generation to benefit from the economic fruits, while leaving the political game to extremists who have taken control over the religious, political and Zionist discourse in Israel, creating a reality based on vulgar capitalism mixed with a hard lined approach supported by a hegemonic ultra-orthodox well-funded establishment.

As for us, the third generation, for yearswe were brought to believe that we have to go to the army and then to reserve army, to pay a fortune for academic studies, to pay for housing in Tel-Aviv more than in the center of Munich, and to sink into debts with every visit to the supermarket. We were brought to believe that in a country which constantly has to defend itself, it is inevitable, and it is part of a price that we are all paying.

However, in reality, there were others who did not have to bare this price. While working university graduates cannot get out of their never-ending bank debts, there were people in Israel who became extremely rich in the past two decades, making Israel the country with the highest inequality rate in the western world. Others, like settlers and ultra-orthodox, were also exempted from paying a price. They were and still are subsidized and are enjoying a life of comfort on the expense of a diminishing middle class, and a working class in which a third is below poverty line although holding a stable employment.

21 percents of 6th grade pupils in Israel belong to the ultra-orthodox stream of education in which mathematics and foreign languages are not part of the curriculum, and in which Democracy is a sin that belongs to secular European regimes.

24 percents of 6th grade pupils in Israel belong to the Arabic stream of education.

In 12 years from now, when those children of two non-democratic populations who are both alienated to the idea of a democratic Jewish nation state will come to vote, they will consist a non-democratic majority. Add this to the picture of tremendous inequality described before, and you will understand that the biggest threat to Israel is not Mahmud Ahmadi-Nijad, not the Hammas, and not the Hezbollah. Israel is certainly powerful enough to defeat such enemies. Israel would however not survive without attending to its internal cleavages.

Knowing these facts, I was sent to my mission in Europe, and was constantly seeking for ways to connect young Jews living in the Diaspora with the state of Israel. I repeatedly explained that supporting Israel does not necessarily mean supporting its government. I strived to create a dialogue in which Jews living outside of Israel would still have an equal voice, and would feel eligible to care for it, and to wish for a place in which they could be proud of. During this journey across more than 70,000 kilometers and many different lands I understood that in many ways, I myself was looking for this lost pride.

Lately, I have again found it. Shivering from excitement at the end of every day in the past two weeks while watching the news coming from Israel, I have witnessed the most valuable resource of the state of Israel waking up from its very long sleep: the people.  Thousands of young women and men, led mostly by women, are out there now on the streets of about 15 different locations in Israel. Young people, who are slowly beginning to understand that they are the state of Israel. What started as yet another facebook protest was able to join together much of the worthy causes that patriotic young Israelis are fighting for these days. Never in the 63 years of its existence did Israel experience a situation in which all of the focus is aimed at its internals challenges. Too many years they were there, growing and spreading under the carpet, where they were swept to.

Look at these young women and men, and endorse them. They are fighting for a better Israel, for us Israelis, and for you. Israel does not belong only to Israelis. It equally belongs to you too. It is now struggling for its future and shape. Which Israel would you like to see? Which Israel would you prefer to be associated with? The answer itself is not enough. It is time for all of us to understand that we might be facing a unique crossroad here. One road will lead to the loss of Israel as a democratic and a moral society. The other might lead to a place in which we can stop and correct the mistakes that were made along the way. These young people out there on the streets are holding the wheel, but it is you who have the power to tell them which way to go. It is not only your privilege, it is also your duty!