Thursday, July 28, 2011

A New Israel – A Manifesto

I see the tent protests spreading across this country, from Rothschild Boulevard to Jerusalem, from Haifa to Kfar Saba, and all towns and cities in between. I see young people and older people moving into these tents in protest; I see a movement of discontent being made tangible and I realize that it is about more, so much more, than just housing and rent levels.

It is about a New Israel. It is about young people raising their voices as never before, about the difficulty of living in this country where prices of nearly everything – with few exceptions – are way beyond those of other countries in Europe or the US – and where wages and salaries are far below those of most other Western countries.

It is about young people demanding the right to make a decent living, and not having to live on overdraft; it is about young people saying “...we’ve had enough!” and it is about young people saying “...let’s change this, NOW!”

I see a new Israel emerging from the tent cities. I see a thousand tents along Rothschild Boulevard – and hardly a scrap of paper on the ground. I see people debating and discussing issues and hardly a voice raised in anger. I see spirited protest, but no violence. I see hope and the future being born before our eyes – and I hope we all realize it and grasp it and nurture it, because it is precious...and ephemeral.

I see a New Israel: an Israel which embodies the heritage of our founding fathers; the pioneering spirit which drove us to convert mosquito-infested swamps and arid wasteland into a garden of delight. I see the commitment and the love of this country manifesting itself in the raw fear of the failure of our enterprise and a determination not to let that happen. To recognize when things are wrong and stand up and say “NO!”

I see a New Israel; an Israel in which people of all shades of opinion are able to state their views without being shouted down. An Israel in which gays and straights, knitted kippot, ultra-religious and ultra secular are able to freely discuss and practice what they truly believe.

I see the birth of a New Israel where the rhetoric and manipulation of cynical and corrupt politicians is greeted with condemnation and not apathy; a new Israel in which respect for other points of view, right, left and center is paramount. I see an Israel which is vibrant with creativity, where music and dance, art and literature are nurtured even more than they are today; with well-provisioned museums and libraries, courses and workshops alive and well in every city, town and village.

I see an Israel where its citizens are still safe to walk its streets and country paths at all times of the day and night – this unique benefit of Israeli life which very few other countries enjoy – but which is being slowly eroded as crime and deprivation creep into the back alleys threatening to destroy this aspect of our lives.

I see an Israel with an efficient, professional, well-paid police force which considers the welfare of citizens its number one priority and one which citizens respect because it has earned that respect by rooting out corruption and serving the people; and a criminal justice system where wrongdoers are brought swiftly and fairly to justice, where the rule of law is supreme.

I see Israeli children excelling at their studies, with enlightened educational policies which challenge and reward excellence; I see this happening in well-funded schools, with small classes and dedicated, professional teachers and with every possible technological and cultural facility available.

I see the result of this being a continual surge of the entrepreneurial spirit...bursting with the energy of innovation and creative thought, developing products and systems which will maintain this country’s position at the forefront of technology and medical science. And I see this being achieved through meaningful tax breaks and incentives for entrepreneurs and enterprises, which will attract foreign investment and enable companies to pay their hard-working, dedicated and talented people salaries which don’t disappear by the fifth of the month into exorbitantly priced goods and services, taxes and overdrafts.

My vision includes those who should be the biggest earners in our society – teachers, police and doctors: those people who have chosen difficult professions which have a deep and lasting impact on our daily lives and well-being.

I see an Israel extending the hand of peace, tolerance, understanding and cooperation to our Palestinian neighbors...and seeing our Palestinian neighbors reciprocating by extending the hand of peace, tolerance, understanding and cooperation to their Jewish neighbors...with this spirit eventually spreading throughout our region.

Our armed forces will remain vigilant, strong, moral and technologically advanced, with the concept of “purity of arms” being paramount; where restraint and professionalism rule, where serving in the armed forces is considered a privilege and not a hardship to be avoided.

I see an Israel where drivers respect each other and each other’s property – their vehicles, cars, motorcycles and bicycles – and where our streets and highways enable the swift and safe movement of people and goods to their destinations; and cease being highways of death.

I see Israel as a model of sustainability – with clean skies, rivers, beaches and forests. Where used goods are recycled instead of becoming pollutants...where health, welfare and longevity are the norm.

I see an Israel leading the world with a high quality of government, with spirited debate and creative, enlightened policies. I see an end to coercion, religious or political, and end to corruption, and an end to the wheeling and dealing of coalition politics.

I see an Israel with tourists thronging to its shores – not in the sparse millions we grab at like crumbs each year, but in the tens of millions. I see immigrants from the West clamoring to set up home here because of the opportunities and the high quality of life. And I see refugees being treated with respect and empathy, and given shelter and the dignity they deserve, because we were refugees once.

Above all, I see clarity of thought and a generosity of spirit, more caring, less public animosity, less demands of self-entitlement – our boorish “m’giah li – I deserve it!” attitude. I see this all arising from the spark of the tent city protests, with the promise of a very bright future for my grandchildren being born.

This is one of my visions of the New Israel. The other is too horrible to contemplate...