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Older Israeli Protesters: Your Struggle Is Important, but You're Living in the Past

Yair asulin
Yair Asulin
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A protest against the unity government outside Defense Minister Benny Gantz's home, Rosh Ha’ayin, April 2020
A protest against the unity government outside Defense Minister Benny Gantz's home, Rosh Ha’ayin, April 2020Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yair asulin
Yair Asulin

It’s to you I’m writing these words, older protesters, determined and white-haired, devoting your precious time to the struggle. It’s mainly you I’d like to address. These words may not be easy for you to accept, and yet, if you truly want to save the situation and let something else grow here, these words must be said.

One should start with what’s true: Right now, your important campaign – in all its forms – isn’t really sweeping the public along. It’s like a big marketing campaign, with much energy, passion and funds invested, but one that lacks a well-defined product. What are you trying to achieve? What kind of Israel are you fighting for? What kind of victory do you envisage?

“Only” changing a government is not an objective. Did you ever ask yourselves what realizing the concept of democracy means in 2020 to young people who are used to voting a thousand times a day on social networks, and for whom pressing a button can place them anywhere around the globe? What really shapes their identities? What do concepts such as sovereignty and privacy, or even liberty, mean when alongside a physical world there is a growing new world with a digital way of life?

More and more members of the younger generation sense, consciously or unconsciously, that we are at the end of the era of politics. The state is no longer the only address, the only option, as it largely was for you. They are not interested in an annexation that in any case will not happen, and don’t expect politicians on any side to be effective or to have integrity. They cast their eyes to space, to Elon Musk’s spaceship, perhaps to living on the moon. In contrast, their economic future is very unclear. There is a great vacuum. What forces will enter it?

Their lives are different in their essence than the lives you lived. The challenges are different, the labor market is different, with the horizon shrouded in mist. Even their basic confidence in the survival of the world is being undermined the more climate change takes its tangible toll.

Obviously, their consciousness is different. The heart of the young generation is in the right place, just as yours is. They just have a different frame of reference. The glasses through which they view reality are different than yours. The old rules of the game are gone. It’s a different story now.

One of the great tragedies in times of deep, existential revolution is the loss of the parental generation’s ability to show the way to a younger generation. Ivan Turgenev wrote about this in his great novel “Fathers and Sons” in the mid-19th century, in the middle of the industrial revolution. The same holds for our technological revolution.

The big challenge for you should be: How do you let the younger generation ask questions that are relevant to them, to expose the fears flooding their minds? How do you mobilize, partly by using the greater resources you control, in leading the struggle for what’s important to the younger generation?

As much as your protest is important and inspiring in its steadfastness, you are – willingly or not – part of a paradigm that is falling apart. You were born, grew up and raised children in a world that no longer exists. What may appear to you as most important may be much less so for the younger generation. Ultimately, the people who have to define the direction of a struggle are the ones who have to contend with life as it is now, with bread-winning, family, security, identity, self-realization.

It’s important to talk less and listen more. To focus on the right questions and not chase after hollow, magical solutions. Instead of pouring more money into sparsely-attended demonstrations and petitions, it’s better to apply your resources and experience to fostering truly new ideas, to promoting young forces. One can’t try to push for real action for a prolonged period without things welling up on the inside. There is no relevance without a true inquiry.

What was is no longer what will be. Too much money, energy and heartfelt emotions have been expended here for naught, on the altar of yearning for the past. We now have to think about embarking on a joint effort in shaping the future.

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