Monday, August 1, 2011

Arab Spring, Israeli Summer

The wave of protests going across the Arab world has been called Arab Spring. It's characterized by vicious attacks against protesters, government forces opening fire on civilians. Over 1,600 have died in Syria; dozens killed in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt. On and on it goes.

And now, tens of thousands of Israelis are marching in the streets protesting the cost of pretty much everything. No, this isn't Arab Spring, this is Israel in the summer. I drove past one protest last night on my way home. Perhaps 300 people were standing with signs and calling out. Cars honked as they drove by. The people filled the sidewalks - no one attempted to stop the traffic on the large street in the middle. When the light stopped us, many people crossed the street to the other side where more people stood.

Police were readily apparent on both sides of the street - their main goal was to make sure no one was hurt and that the intersection remained clear. They weren't, they didn't, it wasn't. We drove home - it was hot, so incredibly hot in Israel in July. One of those miserable days that lead into the night where there is barely a breeze. It was such a pleasure to get home and back into our air conditioning.

Israeli housing prices have been rising for years - many things have driven the price beyond what many consider reasonable. I have a home...but will my children ever be able to afford to buy their own homes if the prices continue on this mad path to the sky? All the prices are so much higher - gas prices, food prices, everything.

I'm not really sure what the government can do about it all - I'm finding it quite funny that the left has suddenly awakened and decided that it could blame Bibi Netanyahu's government when the greatest jump in prices happened under their own watch, not ours.

Never mind, the point of this is something different. No one died here in Israel during these protests. The government didn't open fire on its own people. No, this isn't an Arab Spring - this is our democracy rising up. You don't like something - go stand on a street corner and scream - carry a sign.

You aren't threatening the country when you are doing it here, you are enriching it. You are proving that what we value is your voice. No, the government is not going to listen to every voice. It will do what it can. Last week, it agreed to use government land to build more housing, affordable housing for students. Today, it is contemplating giving a refund back to the citizens.

Complaint by complaint, it is listening and trying to gauge what the people want. Summer in Israel - a land of democracy, a land of the people, at peace with itself, if not with its neighbors.

Will there be a perfect solution? No - there never is.

Will Israeli tanks drive into the streets and open fire on its citizens? Not in this lifetime.

Will Israeli soldiers take up arms against its citizens? Ah...that is an interesting question. Israeli soldiers have been used by the government against its citizens. The soldiers were marched into Gush Katif in 2005. There, they confronted Israeli citizens who had built their homes, with the governments blessing. There they had lived, deep inside Gaza, for 30 years or more.

These people hired Arabs to tend their fields, and paid them fairly. They hired Arabs to help build and maintain their communities. The soldiers were sent in...and what came out of Gaza were traumatized families, traumatized soldiers. There was no violence - there was indescribable agony.

And yet, no violence. Not then and certainly not now. This too is a difference in our culture, in our collective soul. Reports coming out of Syria say 80 have been murdered.

Reports in Israel - may refer to someone being shoved. Our cultures are defined in these moments. Our democracy stands firm - tomorrow more will shout in the streets...and police will be there - reminding people that it's awful hot in Israel and they really should drink more.

I love this country. I love who we are, what we are. Too often, I'm involved in arguments with our enemies and even with those who simply don't understand. I'll watch the protesters tomorrow and smile. Maybe they'll succeed. Who knows - last month, we succeeded in pushing the price of cottage cheese back down to a bit more reasonable simply by everyone saying to stop buying it.

That's the way we fight things here - don't buy cottage cheese. No guns, no tanks. Yet another thing the Arabs could and should learn from Israel.

1 comment:

ProphetJoe said...

Another excellent post, Paula... the economy stinks everywhere (I think). I'm facing an uncertain future as my contract will expire at the end of this month. My employers say they could keep me on as a part-time employee, but that only goes so far in feeding and clothing 4 kids these days! The past 2 months have been filled with job searches and interviews -- time will tell where my family and I land.

And the heat -- Oy Vey, we had 21 consecutive days in July with a heat index over 105 degrees and the humidity is in the 80-90% range. Not fun if you have to work outside (which I normally don't, thankfully)!

Life is still good though... as long as we have cottage cheese (oh, wait) :-)


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