Israel's 100 Most Influential People This Jewish Year

Israel is ripe for the emergence of a new and committed band of professionals who want to change the existing order. TheMarker lists the top players of the Jewish year 5772.

Most of the editors here at TheMarker already decided five years ago that the list of Israel's 100 most influential people, in its usual format, had run its course. When we began publishing the list a decade ago, it mapped out the real forces and interests holding sway over the economy - serving many thousands of readers as something akin to a guide for the perplexed.

Over the years, the side effects of the list's publication began to emerge: Being included on the list - whether for having been a positive influence on the economy or a negative one - translated into status and acclaim that wasn't necessarily deserved.

Two years ago we decided to put an end to that, publishing for the first time a list of the 100 people having the most positive influence, those working hardest to improve Israel's economy, rather than merely the richest and most powerful. Within a year, the massive protest erupted, calling for "social justice" - including the public's demand for leadership that seeks power, not for its own sake but to make things better.

No. 1 on the list for 2011 was the Israeli public. After a sense that the "unconnected" public had long been weakening and fading into invisibility, the protest signaled the dawn of a new era. And indeed, the summer protest forced the government to establish the Trajtenberg Committee to examine Israel's socioeconomic problems and recommend possible solutions.

In his report, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg showed that Israel's evolution towards a freer market over the past decade was a mirage, constituting in actuality a mixture of crony capitalism and crony socialism: the tycoons and privately owned monopolies on one side and the Histadrut labor federation together with the public monopolies on the other.

Left in the breach have been hundreds of thousands of families, contract laborers and unconnected average citizens with no power or representation and the entire array of economic forces weighing against them.

Next to the public that took to the streets, the 2011 list starred the protest leaders, along with the regulators who, after a slumberous decade, went back to doing their job: trying to break up the centers of power and the immense concentration in the economy that had shattered the free market and enterprise, and was threatening to shred the democratic regime and convert it into an oligarchy.

A year has passed and the protest endures - in the deep change of consciousness undergone by hundreds of thousands of Israelis and many decision-makers. Previously trapped in a virtual "matrix" created by the media and many of the country's movers and shakers, the Israeli public awoke to the realization that small cadres of big business and government shape the economy to suit their own whims, not for the greater good.

This year you won't find listed those protest leaders who, either by conscious decision or from burnout, abandoned the struggle and joined the established power centers to serve as mouthpieces for sitting politicians, big business or powerful unions associated with the current order. Their rhetoric remains cliched and innocuous - save for vague outbursts against "the government" or politicians of a rival party.

The bear hug given some of these young people by the major media is painful to watch. But sophisticated readers and viewers aren't fooled by their portrayal as protest leaders in fawning cover stories of the larger newspapers: They understand that these former leaders are no longer revolutionaries looking for change and have instead committed themselves to not rocking the boat in exchange for a cover story or a few minutes of airtime.

So where will the changes come from? Not to worry: They'll come, because the revolution in consciousness has begun, and because the inequality, the high cost of living, the corruption and the sense of despair will only grow in the years ahead. Social protests around the world will provide inspiration and awareness will continue evolving.

What has not yet appeared in the public arena is a new and committed elite of professionals that wants to change the existing order and possesses the tools, skills and, most importantly, the necessary measure of integrity and patience to do so. In contrast with most of the tent people, they aren't merely shouting for "social justice" and seeking to overthrow the government or demanding increased budgets. They understand that the more intrinsic rules of the game need to be transformed - through structural and ecological changes in the public's perceptions and beliefs. This is a lengthy but necessary process, and major change in Israeli society will not be achieved without it.

Probably very few on this year's list of the 100 most influential people possess the potential needed to become part of this new elite. Almost everyone with the requisite knowledge, ability, patience and deep understanding of Israel's political, economic, and social structure is afraid to be seen as a "revolutionary" and tossed out of the ruling circles. The several tycoons who have launched social and economic initiatives in recent years are careful to distinguish these as "projects" or side activities to avoid annoying the power bases of the current economic and political order.

But as time moves on and culture evolves, new values will prevail and increasing numbers of capable people will begin leading the change. We want to be here to partner this process.

To see the full list, click here.

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 1: Rami Levi and Michael Golan

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 2: Benjamin Netanyahu

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 3: Stanley Fischer

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 5: Shelly Yacimovich

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 6: Ofer Eini

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 9: Money managers

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 11: Daphni Leef

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 12: The lost generation

TheMarker's 100 top influencers of 2012 / No. 14: Sheldon Adelson

Rosie the Riveter
J. Howard Miller via Wikipedia