100 Most Influential: Activists

The 2011 social protest gave birth to new centers of power that speak with the authentic voice of the public.

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An earthquake – there's no other way to describe it. In less than two months, two candidates for governor of the central bank were forced to withdraw their candidacies amid intense public scrutiny; the court's observer for the IDB group called for liquidating the company and handing it over to its bondholders; public pressure forced the government to reduce the export cap for the natural gas off Israel's shores to 53%, down from 40%, even before a High Court ruling; and the Finance Ministry softened cutbacks in the new budget due to the public outcry.

All this didn't start two months ago, of course. The earth has been shaking under the feet of ministers, Knesset members, big businessmen and others at the peak of the money-government pyramid for two years now, since the social protests began in 2011. Israel of 2013 is vastly different country from the one of two years ago, when companies gave their bondholders haircuts and banks struck questionable deals with cronies and no-one said a word. Over the past two years, the Israeli public has injected an element of fear into its relationship with government and corporations. The masses may no longer be taking to the streets like they did in 2011, but they learned the protest movement's most important lesson – they learned to ask the right questions.

And people aren't just asking, they're also doing. They're voicing opinions on social networks, launching petitions, boycotting, petitioning the court and demanding that hidden protocols be published, and pressuring the media to do its job. The protest gave birth to new movements, including cooperatives, nonprofits and workers' unions, all of which are taking the protest movement to its next stage and building new centers of power. They include the people protesting the government's plan to export gas, including Yael Cohen-Faran, head of the Israel Energy Forum, Sapir Slutzker-Amran, an activist in the "Not Nice" movement, Michal Shukrun, spokeswoman for Green Course, Israel Cohen Rosovski, a pioneer in Haredi vocational training; and Basma Khalaf-Joubran, the founder of the forum seeking to bring more Arab women into the high-tech industry.

That's not to say that people's lives haven't gotten worse over the past two years. The global economic downturn has had its effect. But things would be much worse than they are now if it weren't for these activists, born in the summer of 2011.

Nati Tucker and Tali Heruti-Sover contributed to this report.

Basma Khalaf-Joubran.Credit: Hagai Frid

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