A New Israeli Voice Has Risen, and Must Not Die

Here is a suggestion for female IDF soldiers: Sing. Sing with all your heart and lungs; Sing during the day and at night, in private and in the army's public areas.

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Here is a suggestion for Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai: Take a piece of park an eighth of an acre in size, let's say in Meir Park, and declare it a Tel Aviv version of Hyde Park. You don't have to copy London - the English Speakers' Corner is a line of crates with a few preachers standing on them, who are usually rather strange. Tel Aviv could teach London something: Our "Ideas Boulevard," as Tomer Shadmi so appropriately called it last week in Haaretz Hebrew Edition, will be a circle of many participants, speakers and listeners interested in a multisided dialogue.

In the Tel Aviv version, you need a circle of chairs, which can be expanded or contracted for large discussions or small groups. Plastic furniture, beanbag chairs, rugs - what is important is that there is a set place for the people in the middle of the city to conduct the new civic dialogue.

Instead of chasing after the last of the tents, the mayor could allocate affordable housing to the public protests themselves, at the critical developmental stage from a tent camp to a discussion circle. And Huldai could come out of the affair well.

Here is a suggestion for the leaders of the protest. In truth, you have received more than enough advice and you have wisely declined most of it, so I will make do with an appeal: Please, pay attention to your younger siblings. Tens of thousands of teenagers are looking at you today, junior high and high schoolers, youth movement members and their counselors. They see you as heroes and a source of inspiration. They are looking up to you as big brothers and sisters who they are proud of not only for your personal achievements but for your public ones.

Don't ignore the younger generation and don't disappoint them. Don't, God forbid, slip into separatist extremism on the one hand, or wear yourselves out on the other. Because disappointing these young men and women, who for the first time in their lives have seen what civic enthusiasm is, is worse than disappointing yourselves or those cynics who are older than you.

Let the young challenge themselves to be worthy of you. Let them grow up within an active civil society for which you have borne the banner. It may be that you have left a stronger stamp on them than their parents or teachers have. Even if you have yet to join the stroller protests, whether you have noticed or not, you are already educating a generation.

And here is a suggestion for female Israel Defense Forces soldiers: Sing. Sing with all your heart and lungs. Sing in the shower, sing on the parade ground, sing in the tank, sing in a circle on the grass on the base. Sing during the day and at night, in private and in the army's public areas. Sing Lady Gaga or Naomi Shemer. Not as a provocation, heaven forbid, but as the sound of the natural and proper human voice. "Raise your voice," as the prophet Isaiah says in the Bible, which is packed with women raising their voices.

Since the heart of the matter is not in scullcap-wearing soldiers sitting facing a stage with female singers. The heart of the matter is in the true contradiction between the viewpoints of "a woman's voice is nakedness" and "a woman's voice is happiness." We must not smooth over or cover up this contradiction, not even with pleasant words. The exposure and clarification of this contradiction is a pan-Israeli matter of the highest level, which is happening in the IDF especially because that is where the social and geographic separation between the different parts of society falls. And that is why the IDF is the place for a civic and human statement of protection of freedom and respect.

What these three suggestions have in common is extremely simple. Israelis, men and women, made their voices heard this summer strongly and clearly, a civic voice. This voice needs space, continuity, legitimacy and equality. The summer is ending, the September cooling-off is near, and the political-security debate is once again threatening to swallow the civic discussion. But the new Israeli voice must persevere. It must not be silent, or be silenced.

The writer is a professor of history in the law faculty of the University of Haifa, and the Leon Liberman Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.



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