Opinion

No Wonder We Are Not Joining Anti-corruption Demonstrations in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv

We took to the streets seven years ago to protest the cost of living, the rule of the monopolies, the corrupt budget allocations to special interests: they called us spoiled and played dumb

Anti-corruption demonstrations in Israel
Tomer Appelbaum

The anti-corruption demonstrators are despondent. The rallies in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv mainly attract people aged 60 and up. Here and there you find a few people in their 40s, but there are none in their 20s. Or more accurately, they’re across the way – in the restaurants and pubs, or passing by en route to some event.

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They don’t even stop for a moment to read the signs. We heard you, democracy and all that. Come on, you’re badgering us.

How is it that the recent announcements of a wave of price increases, from frozen chicken to a kilowatt of electricity, aren’t waking people up and making them angry? In neighboring undemocratic Jordan, people have already gone out to demonstrate. Even in Iran, there are huge demonstrations by people who have had it. Where, pundits ask in frustration, are the young people? Why aren’t we hearing from them?

It’s hard to blame the 20-year-olds. They were born into the Netanyahu era, and they have no memory of the possibility of changing the government. Older people had the good fortune to grow up in an age when prime ministers changed. (Admittedly, one suffered a severe blow from three bullets in the back, but why quibble?) In the eyes of 20-something Israelis, as in the old World Cup cliché, you play at elections for 90 days and in the end, Bibi wins.

So who do the older people blame? Us, the 30-somethings, who took to the streets seven years ago to protest the cost of living, the rule of the monopolies, the corrupt budget allocations to special interests, the violation of the basic contract between the state and its citizens.

Back then, in 2011, they called us spoiled and played dumb: “Who said you have to live in the center of the country?” They pointed to the long lines at Ben-Gurion Airport and scolded us, “If we managed to save for an apartment, so can you.” They read the signs we held up and made stupid faces, as if what was happening here wasn’t the fault of their willingness to dismantle the state and replace it with a limited liability corporation in the name of some sort of “growth,” which grew more strongly whenever we took out more loans and took on heavier debts.

Where are we? Quite a few of us have left. They arranged a student visa or a passport from some country that their grandparents fled 80 years ago.

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There are also some who remained. Some gave in and took out a mortgage, with help from their parents. They bought an apartment somewhere where there’s no work and no normal public transportation, and now they’re renting to people who have been stuck there ever since the government put their grandparents there so the Arabs wouldn’t have anywhere to return.

At this stage, they’re usually having a baby. They won’t take to the streets, because who will pay the babysitter $15 an hour so they can demonstrate about the cost of living?

Many others have parents who can’t help them, so they’re working full-time for stagnant salaries that are swallowed up by soaring rents. They’re raising their credit limits so their checks won’t bounce. They’re cutting back on their weekly shopping and praying they won’t need dental work.

And even though everyone reminds them that it will soon be too late, they aren’t having children. Not because this is their final decision, but out of an understanding that they really can’t support anyone but themselves. There’s no safety net, and no chance that things will get better.

So tell me, all you concerned pundits: Now, when the ugly wave you created has boomeranged back on you, you’re demanding that we take to the streets? In the name of what solidarity, exactly? In the name of what values? You sold us for a profit, and now you want to buy us back cheap?