Social Change in Israel Will Take Time

Years of patience and deposits of faith are necessary in order to benefit from the fruits of the change, not the crumbs that will be tossed to the hungry masses by politicians or committees.

A moment before fatigue, waves of criticism and the Middle Eastern reality weaken the tent protesters, we should take a moment to look at the past, even if simply and without interpretation, and to read the Israeli 14th of July in light of its great progenitor, the French Revolution.

The social comparison is clear: a hodgepodge of groups that were squeezed into one "class," which was tired of the burden of maintaining an aristocracy - whether a remote one or one of capital and government. Both groups discovered a weakness in those confronting them: a king who stretched out a hesitant hand, and a visible hand that slanted market prices downward.

execution of Robespierre - Archive - 24082011

From the parallels we can also see the great differences: The French protest was quickly translated into the wording of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was also the preface to a decade of bloody political battles. About 50 more years of wavering between conservatism and revolution ended with the victory of the latter. Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the first thinkers to explain the revolution, said that more than it was revolutionary, it was an evolutionary and dialectic process whose conceptual roots were planted deep in French history.

In Israel there are some who want to implement the "social justice" slogan as though it were a part of the instant culture in which worlds are changed by means of a Facebook "like" or a text message. But the speed and superficiality must be rejected in order to leave room for the need and the desire to think, to agree, to be deterred, to have regrets, to experience trial and error. All those take time. Momentary agreement and a comforting counter-declaration are not a solution for the profound change demanded by the protest.

Social justice, which is now seen as a change, is in effect a motif in Judaism, which was part of Jewish society during the period of settlement in Palestine and even during the first 19 years of the state - even though social justice was not applied to the other nation living here. Contributing to society was also one of the prominent characteristics of practical Zionism, before it was labeled pure colonialism.

Now, among the ideological rifts, the protesters want to return to the foundations and to leave politics aside. But it is doubtful whether the discussion of the gaps can be silenced; for example, the gap between the funding for the Judea and Samaria Academic College and that of the public colleges inside the Green Line; the generous funding for the special schools of the ultra-Orthodox, and the sweeping exemption from military service, under the aegis of "the tents of Torah."

A divorce from politics is difficult even on the theoretical level. De Tocqueville compared the French Revolution to the religious revolutions, referring to the transition from idolatrous beliefs to monotheism, to religions that recruit believers and are constantly spreading. The Israeli protest is also recruiting believers and spreading. The Rothschild encampment, which was at first depicted as nothing more than a hedonistic celebration, inspired dozens of encampments and thousands of Israelis who believe in their ability to change their future with their own hands. It turns out that the burial of the era of ideology was premature, and if there is ideology, politics will march hand in hand with it.

Years of patience and deposits of faith are necessary in order to benefit from the fruits of the change, not the crumbs that will be tossed to the hungry masses by politicians or committees. If there is a revolutionary spirit, then it should go all the way: with patience and an ongoing discourse, even at a time of external threats. If the French did not retreat before the ire of the kings of Europe, the Israelis can also take a deep breath and continue.