Israelis Don't Deserve a Reward for Protesting

After the summer's social protests, the Israeli nation is facing a test: Will it once again rise up, or will it chicken out?

So Time magazine named "The Protester" as its Person of the Year. In theory, that makes us Time's people of the year as well, but we in Israel don't deserve any awards.

You have to actively defend a revolution. But observing from the sidelines, it looks as if the Trajtenberg Report's excellent conclusions (Wow, we can order NIS 1,200 worth of stuff from Ebay without paying customs duties!) were enough for us. The miserable slanders against Daphni Leef somehow took root in hearts that for years have been rent by fear and divisiveness.

Time Magazine 'Person of the Year,' 2011.

The bad guys didn't exactly wait; their ugly heads are rearing up from every nook and cranny. If in the past, each day would bring some optimistic news - another city erected a tent camp; another retail chain was lowering prices - today, darkness prevails on the streets.

The nation that took to the streets is like a woman who, after suffering for years, finally complains that her husband is hitting her. But after the husband reassures the policeman that everything will be fine and the policeman goes back to the station, the husband locks the door and punishes her for having dared to speak up.

There is only one way to fight this socioeconomic terror, and it's not to back down: It's to fight harder, no holds barred.

This past summer we all - even Gideon Levy - fell in love with the Israeli people. But now this great nation is facing a test: Will it once again rise up, or will it chicken out? Once again, we face those dismal commentators who respond to every threat to the defense budget by scaring us with the Iranian nukes. Once again it's every man for himself.

And Rothschild Boulevard? That damned empty Rothschild Boulevard, with its grass and petunias? I've never hated petunias so much.

But there were hundreds of thousands there this summer. I remember them. What are all those people with the shining eyes doing now?

There were some strange people on Rothschild: They stood in line for food, stuck papers with hearts on tree branches and checked out options for nudism. There were woman with big pots who banged them with big spoons from the windows of Marmorek Street. There were people from the Ethiopian tent camp in Petah Tikva. And the Arab women who sat with the women of Tel Aviv's Hatikva Quarter.

And for a moment we had a country, created by the Israeli people, the ones whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recognize even though he himself is their No. 1 enemy. This was the "people" in the banners that read "The People Demand Social Justice," which were carried by both Jews and Arabs.

Once, when I spoke about the importance of joy and my opposition to sadness and despair, somebody explained to me that I was mistaken. Maybe sadness is bad, he said, but we can't give up despair, because that's what motivates people to act.

So it's time to declare despair: constructive despair.

I, for one, am not prepared to abandon what I had in hand. This sweet summer was the best time of my life. It's not too late.

My people of the year are not those who protested, but those who will keep on protesting.