Stay in Your Tents

The protest transfered the center of power from the politicians to the public, and that public is speaking now - for perhaps the first time - in terms of individual and society rather than in terms of state and army.

Just two weeks old, and the list of the protest's accomplishments is long. But it could still end in tears or, at worst, with nothing. It has more than a few enemies and its future is vague, but nonetheless one must nod in admiration. This protest has already created a shift in priorities, if only briefly. If it endures, it will become a revolution.

The public debate has risen from its torpor. There is talk and there is an agenda - new phenomena in our universe. There are young people who will not be bought off with idle promises. To paraphrase Shlomo Artzi, suddenly a people wakes in the morning and feels itself to be a person, very many persons, and begins to walk. The protest transfered the center of power from the politicians to the public, and that public is speaking now - for perhaps the first time - in terms of individual and society rather than in terms of state and army.

Do not trivialize this. The protest has also transfered the focus of strength from domineering minority groups to the previously silent majority. Now the talk is of concern for the majority, not for an extortionist minority. The "State of Tel Aviv" has resumed its deserved central, values-rich position. Suddenly there are values on Sheinkin Street, not only at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. In an instant, the protest nipped in the bud the dangerous, growing trend of idolizing the wealthy.

This protest came just in time: Just as the enemies of democracies rose up to destroy it, this absolute expression of democracy blossomed. More than all the opinion pieces and the High Court of Justice petitions, perhaps, these tent cities will remind the politicians that we have a people, a society - not just party primaries.

Perhaps the politicians themselves will change. They will sweat much more before every cynical decision they take, fearing the public response. The social-welfare advocates will join the fray, those who for years were mocked by the arrogant, overweening hawks and statesmen. The Kahlons are coming to power. Who is Ehud Barak now? Who is Tzipi Livni? This protest may yet birth a new political movement that will not resemble its predecessors. The big promise may be being built now. This protest has not yet peaked, it is certainly far from dying; it is already shaking, rattling and rolling.

It has many enemies who are just waiting for the misstep, who cannot wait to see it fall. Chief among them, of course, is the prime minister. His throne, and the entire political system, are wobbling because those bastards changed the rules. Slinging mud at the protest, proposing empty solutions, heating up the conflict with the Palestinians and the security issue, all these are ploys for the survival of Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

The families that control Israel's economy are also among the enemies, for obvious reasons. As are the right and the settlers. Someone stole the show from them, someone could yet steal their birthright. Who knows, maybe the tough questions about them, the ones the protesters have not yet dared to ask, will come up. Perhaps the military establishment will also join the covert enemies of the protest: The protest could yet take on some of those sacred cows. And let's not forget the more cynical and conservative of the commentators - the ones who have already "seen it all" and who "know everything." Some of them do not believe in any change and some of them serve their employers, the tycoons. Even if some of them are riding the crest of the wave, they will be the first to jump off if it weakens.

The protesters must be warned of all these threats. They passed their first test when they refused to buy Netanyahu's trinkets. But the big tests are still to come. The public's warm embrace will gradually be replaced by criticism. They must not be panicked by this. They must wait with stubborn patience for the whole pot: not just rent reduction, but changes to the entire political and social system. Until that happens, not a single tent should be struck, not a single flag taken down. Dear friends, even if only some of the gains are maintained, you have already made history. So stay in your tents (and take to the streets ). The next opportunity won't come for another generation.