There Is No Such Thing as Russians in Israel

The so-called 'Russian public' is made up of one million people of different ages, from different countries, cultures and socioeconomic status, and with only one common denominator - a language.

The people want social justice and the media want to know who the people are: who we are and who is against us. As someone who came to this country as a child from the former Soviet Union, I had the misfortune of coming from the "wrong side" of the political map, from the "Russian street"; that community which numerous newspaper articles now report as being conspicuously absent from the protest movement.

The Russian vote, the Russian community, the Russian street. Millions of shekels were spent over the past two decades on trying to decipher its genome, and trying to sell to this strange entity a popular dessert called Milky or a prime minister "in a way they'll understand." Even today, it transpires, many refuse to understand that they are dealing with a public of one million people of different ages, from different countries, different cultures, a different socioeconomic status, and with only one common denominator - a language. That's it. And therefore any attempt to make them one and the same is pathetic and useless.

These same one million people, who go almost unheard in the Hebrew-language media, have been labeled over the years with a variety of tags. They were said to be engaged in the world's oldest profession or to be figures in stories from "The Godfather." And now they are being labeled as opponents of the protest movement. Because all of them vote for Avigdor Lieberman and, after all, the protest is left wing. Or maybe it's because they still remember communism and are wary of the red winds that blow from Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. Or perhaps simply because they were educated to be like that, to keep their heads down and keep quiet.

On what, in fact, are these reports based? Did anyone count how many "Russians" participated in the march of the 300,000 on that Saturday night, less than two weeks ago? And what do they look like, these "Russians"? Do they wear sandals with socks? Do they give off an odor of vodka and sausage? I am doubtful whether anyone would associate my brother, for example, with that "street"; he came to Israel at the age of 4, speaks a sprinkling of Russian and looks like any average young Israeli. And is it possible to compare his worldview with that of my grandmother who lived for 50 years under a communist regime? After all, both of them are from the same "street," the same "community" and the same "vote."

And why should we not try to examine the extent to which people of Moroccan descent joined in the protest? Did anyone count how many Moroccans marched in the demonstration and try to identify them in the crowd? It would be interesting to know how it would be done. According to what criteria? Anyone who dared to make an examination of that kind would immediately be accused of racism, and rightly so.

The complaints about the Russian public boil down mainly to the positions of the Russian-language media and that public's political representatives. But these representatives have for the most part looked after No. 1 over the years. The Russian-language media as well, with the plethora of interests that exist therein, mostly represents only itself. And in general, its influence these days has become marginal.

On the other hand, a new generation has grown up here. It lives an Israeli life and gets its information, alas, not in its mother tongue. This generation does not need the promises of "Nash Kontrol," the election slogan of the Yisrael Be'aliyah party, but it does need and want social justice. True, not everyone - but then, not all the citizens of the state of Israel have demonstrated in the streets.

All these "Russians" move among us. And they look the same as we do. Each one is assimilated in Israeli society to the extent that he wishes. When the media stop looking for protest banners in Russian, then it will become the voice of that democracy under whose umbrella hundreds of thousands of people are protesting.

My grandmother did not take part in the previous demonstration, and I would venture to say that she will also not participate in the next one. Does she represent those who came from the Commonwealth of Independent States? Of course not. Just in the same way as I, who will participate, do not represent a soul except for myself. And no, no one needs to try to sell me a prime minister in Russian. I am no longer "new immigrant, small Hebrew."