In Israel, the Future Can Come Down to Just One Night

The burdens of everyday life have for so long persuaded people that they could do nothing about them. No more. It either ends here, or Israel does. Saturday night. Be there.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

How can you tell if a revolution is real? When this all started, I had no idea. But I kept going to the tent camps and to the marches until I learned. It took just three words. An Arab Israeli, speaking to thousands of demonstrators two days after the recent terror killings near Eilat, said it all:

"Anachnu Am Echad." We're one people. In this society of tribal fractures and chronic rage, those three words were as radical and transformative and moral and direct a statement as any revolution could spawn. One people, Jew and Muslim and Christian and Druze, one people right and left, observant and secular, straight and gay, woman and man, infant and aged.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters march in Tel Aviv over the high cost of living in Israel, August 6, 2011. Credit: Tal Cohen

How can you tell a revolution is real? When it holds up a mirror that lets you see the back of your mind. In less than two months, this movement has changed the way people of all walks of life see each other, treat each other, and view their own lives. A week ago, our family marched in a demonstration behind a man who held up a sign reading "I'm a human being, Godammit. My life has value."

How can you tell a revolution is real? When time after time, you suspect that no one will go to the demonstration this week, but you go anyway, because you believe that there is something vital in this, and its only when you get there that you realize that thousands and thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people were feeling the exact same thing.

What makes a revolution real? When the future of an entire country can come down to just one night. Saturday, for example.

From a distance, the idea of a revolution in an ostensibly modern, statistically prosperous country may seem suspect, outmoded, puzzling. Imagine one of eight American men, women and children, some 40 million in all, taking to the streets of major cities, chanting a demand for social justice.

Fair enough. This is not the Israel you're used to. This is not the Israel you knew two months ago. These are not the same Israelis. These people have come alive, just as the peculiar culture that has poisoned Israel for years and years and years has begun to die.

This is not a revolution against the current government. It's a revolution against the bullying behavior that is the overwhelming plague of day to day life here. Government after government. Corporation after corporation.

In a culture which for decades has granted standout bullies management positions in government, business and unions, there is no act more radical than the phenomenon of people gathering to listen, actually stop and shut up and listen, to one another's experience and opinions.

No wonder the ordinary people who keep this country afloat have been made to feel shame, made to feel like losers. In this Israel, this Elbonia with an H and M, graft and law-bending and cronyism have long trumped talent and aptitude and honest, caring, hard work. In this Third Temple of mega-wealth, there was no room for a trickle-down effect. The backbone of the country, people who work, pay their taxes, do their reserve military duty and raise families, have been pushed to realize they have a choice: change this country, or look for another one.

No wonder, with corporate and bureaucratic functionaries rewarded for bleeding and bilking and misleading and milking and ultimately discarding the customers and clients they were meant to be serving, that the burdens of everyday life have for so long persuaded people that they could do nothing about them.

This is the structure that says: never question, never apologize, never take responsibility. This is the structure that created Israel's ills. This is the structure that fosters occupation, segregation, discrimination, humiliation, and, at the same time, saps the will and the means to do anything about it.

No more. It either ends here, or Israel does. Saturday night. Be there. Go ahead, make your future.



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