You and I Will Change the World

The Israeli public’s unprecedented emotional response to Arik Einstein’s death was a return of the social protest.

Sefi Rachlevsky
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Sefi Rachlevsky

The Israeli public’s unprecedented emotional response to Arik Einstein’s death was explained as a sort of November 4th. The bashful, modest, leader. Ichilov Hospital. The shock. In fact, the mass emotion was a return of the social protest. Only the heartless see this emotion at Einstein’s death as being primarily nostalgia for an Israel that once existed or, as some claim, never existed.

A huge public in mourning, in pain, in shock – more than half the population of Israel – wasn’t saddened by the past, but rather by the present, and the future of their children. A huge public protested with its pain at its inability to express its inner world, its culture and its hopes, in modern day Israel.

A huge public feels excluded and occupied by gross materialism, extravagance, heartless capitalism, social gaps, reality shows that scorn the human spirit in prime time, the values of the settlers, the racism, the government coarseness and arrogance, the world designed by Benjamin Netanyahu. The man Einstein had in mind when he said that his soul was tortured by extravagance in the face of so many have-nots.

In an interview with Boaz Cohen (Yedioth Ahronoth), Einstein said he abhorred the word "secular," that his belief in human dignity was holy enough. Many Israelis felt the same way: that it’s simply impossible that their beliefs should be thus trampled upon, that they must shy away and withdraw from the enforcement of values that scorn their very existence.

More than half of the population knows that things should be otherwise, that they must be otherwise. That a state which controls almost all the land must enable every young person to purchase an apartment at the price it costs to build it. That culture can and should be nurtured, not suppressed. That vulgarity and violence are not a given, but the result of evil dictates.

A huge public senses that it is impossible that in a welfare state such pillars of culture as Nomi Polani, David Avidan, Orly Castel-Bloom and Nachum Heiman are abandoned to a life of poverty. Most of this public believes that Einstein withdrew from a society where he could no longer find his place.

There is a direct connection between the man who seized power to the cries of “with blood and fire we will banish Rabin” and the suffocation of high culture in Israel. In any other welfare state, the necessary "bubbles" of culture are nurtured by public radio and TV and the more committed sectors of the independent commercial press.

Netanyahu decided to trample upon anything he conceived of as an "elite," as well as the independent press. For that purpose he conquered public radio and TV and transformed them into government radio and TV. To make sure they didn’t broadcast poetry or satirical programs. The commercial press was forced to the brink of bankruptcy by a "competitor" who enjoys the backing of billions of dollars, and is, in fact, an organ of the ruler, distributed for free, thus impoverishing the commercial press, forcing it to become more shallow and vulgar – in order to simply survive.

In such an environment, Einstein’s creations in the last decade couldn’t find their place, a fact that obviously scarred him. And he wasn’t alone. More than half the population sensed he was forced to withdraw, or to keep his silence and disappear. The same apparatus that determines housing and education policies, rules the arts as well. Cheap housing, education and subsidized culture all exist – but only for Haredim and settlers. The rest? If they aren’t well-off, they should stay hungry, emigrate, or become religious and move to a settlement.

This public, which has had enough of the Netanyahu state, is, in fact, a majority. Not a large majority, but nonetheless a majority. Every time a political effort has been made to reflect this majority, it gained victory. This happened with Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Kadima. Even in the last elections, without an obvious leader, there was a draw. But apart from the last Rabin government, the leadership of the non-right wing, non-religious parties delivered its voters to the hands of the vulgar and arrogant regime.

Now change is, again, possible. The huge public that attended the Einstein protest is thirsty for true leadership and real change. It feels that this is the last chance to get rid of the coarse regime. With the right leadership, the Einstein protesters would find a way to save Israel.

A mourner in Rabin Square before Arik Einstein's funeral.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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