Don't ask the protesters for solutions
This isn't about the economy, stupid, it's about values and vast gaps between indicators of success and reality.
The young people in the tents and city squares have prompted many people to cite former U.S. President Bill Clinton's election slogan: "It's the economy, stupid." And yet the challenge presented by protesters is not merely economic - it is, above all, an ethical challenge.
The debate is not one of numbers, but of values - values that are basic to our existence as an ethical society, and which are the basis for the treaty among us as citizens of the country. The protest is an attempt to restore the discussion of values to public discourse, and it will dictate policy and economic discourse. That is the revolution.
In the past, the economic achievements of the Israeli government have made us proud, but the mirror that the protesting youth are placing before us now also is cause for concern.
Along with the statistics on low unemployment, a low national debt and inflation that is under control, there are worrisome figures about impoverished working people, a health system that discriminates between the center of the country and the outlying areas, and an education system that has turned into private systems lacking a guiding hand.
Inconceivable gaps are being exposed between the economic indicators of success and the painful reality of the situation.
Where there are no worthy people
When the social welfare organizations are asked why we carry out social welfare activities that are the government's responsibility, all we can answer is, "In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be one," and know that we have to speak out louder and demand that the government actually does what governments are supposed to do: take responsibility.
We cannot expect or demand that the protesters be the ones to create solutions. What is unique and positive about this social protest is that it is not about bargaining over a solution, but rather positing basic values that have to do with the dignity of man and his right to a decent life, and his obligations as a working and contributing citizen - values that require major, long-term processes. For that purpose, we need leadership that can present a social vision and mark out the path, with all its difficulties and its benefits.
It's not the economy. When we speak about minimum wage - a nice number that has no real value the moment it is compared to the cost of living - we understand that anyone who has a family and who earns minimum wage is doomed to a life of poverty. When the old-age allowance limits the world of the elderly person to a narrow place between a slice of bread and a threadbare blanket in the winter, and when the allowance for the disabled does not provide for the genuine ability to live life, these numbers lose their power.
Therefore, we have to thank the protest movement for presenting values rather than numbers. They are values centered around the five basic needs presented by Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky: housing, health, clothing, education and food. These five needs are the minimum, not the maximum.
The Israeli government says nothing with regard to the question "What kind of country do I want to be?" for the citizens. The government has received an opportunity to include those individuals who, until now, did not flash across the computer screens of the ones making economic decisions: Those individuals sitting in the protest tents, and those who don't have the strength to make themselves heard and to protest.
That's what I had hoped. But on the Trajtenberg Committee appointed by the prime minister, there is no representation of the social welfare organizations that turn values into deeds every single day. These organizations are out in the field, and for decades they have been creating social solutions that change the lives of many of those multitudes whom the government fails to take care of. These are the organizations that bring in other voices, those who must be among the decision makers on the committee, rather than appear before it as storytellers and witnesses.
The government has chosen a path that weakens these voices. Even the chairman of the umbrella organization that represents the social welfare groups - despite being a former director general of the Social Affairs Ministry and of the National Insurance Institute - was not found worthy of being included on the committee.
The author is CEO of Matan - Investing in the Community