What Will I Tell My Son When He Wakes Up?

Every morning I gaze at the door to my son's room, which is closed until the late morning hours. After a long night, he gets up, surfs the Internet, reads for an hour, practices music for an hour, meets with friends, surfs the Internet again and watches television until the wee hours of the night. This is how my son is spending this fall's "summer vacation." The little excitement he initially felt at starting new subjects in middle school (biology and French) is fast disappearing as the strike continues.

The teachers are right, of course. What's more, something has happened to Israeli public opinion, which used to get swept up in efforts to end all strikes. Even the move against Ran Erez has had no effect. (His accent is mocked; our leaders, Roni Bar-On and Abraham Hirchson, have authentic Israeli accents and only Erez suffers a "Diaspora-like" accent.) Clearly the substantial airtime alloted to the strike's opponents has had no effect on public opinion.

The same is true of government spokesmen and parents' representatives who have joined efforts against the strike.

The public's support is eye-opening, given the complete indifference to the university professors' strike. For the last few years, the professors were mainly responsible for the dismal state of the masses of part-time and external lecturers (most of the university lecturers) - for what can only be described as the feudal relationship between masters and indentured servants. The public's support for the high-school teachers' strike emphasizes the importance of this struggle and not of "every struggle."

In the best sense of the collective individual, we are seeing teachers rallying at major intersections, students joining forces with teachers and youth movements (for a change) not protesting on behalf of "pioneering aspirations" or abstract values. They are all protesting for themselves - and not just in the square as was the case last Saturday night, but in conversations on the street, with drivers honking to show support for those protesting at intersections.

We are witnessing the fact that the government did not manage to drive a wedge between the strikers and their supporters, as is usually accomplished by the stronger party, i.e., the employer.

However, specifically for this reason, the despair is so great.

The government's apathy, the apathy of the huge coalition of "business as usual" indicates a decline in the value of public opinion. If democracy is just elections, which take place once every few years; if democracy is the rule of a parliamentary majority and the rule of a parliamentary majority is agreement on a platform that for the most part does not exist, then what's the point of public opinion? To vent grievances on television?

Elections will be held. The politicians will go back to fighting over Annapolis. Meanwhile, health, education, pension issues and abandoning the elderly will fall away until the next time "public opinion" is called onto the street. In any case, no one will heed its call then, because it is powerless. The government, any government, only understands power, therefore the supporters, or opposers, of the leadership are measured by their power alone.

Therefore this strike is turning into democracy's hour, a very sad hour, because it seems as if a stage of democracy is already over. Is there a similarity here to the farce of the Winograd Committee? Certainly. All of the voices are being unheeded.

To a large extent, there is no opposition in Israel when it comes to the interests of Israelis themselves. The political community stands like a fortified wall before public opinion.

There is an effective opposition of the settlement movement, which succeeded in recruiting Shas by using a religious interpretation of the occupation. There is even an opposition on the left, with waning sensitivity to human rights. There are radical left-wing organizations that long ago forgot how to engage in dialog with the Israeli public, with their impoverished compatriots.

But there is no party that is able to represent the interests of salaried wage earners, of users of the deteriorating medical service - to be the advocate of a public whose quality of life is declining, even as electronic appliances and trips abroad grow less expensive.

A day after the big rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin square, the Labor Party held a conference. Nobody told Yuli Tamir "you're the obstacle in our way to reaching the Israeli masses."

No one told Ehud Barak: "You're completely indifferent to anything that does not bring you closer to the premiership, regardless of which side you're storming out from."

The full square faced a closed door. What should I tell my son when he wakes up? Should I tell him that the strike is the most important lesson in democracy at the moment, much more so than the circumcision of Yigal Amir's son? If he asks me: What can we draw from this lesson? I'm not sure I'll have a ready answer.