The Rosh-Pina’s Tents. photo: tamar zandberg
In order to respond to the protesters’ demands, there is no need for large and cumbersome teams. The government needs to get down to the people and hear their demands. The government has to visit the encampments.
All of Israel is rife with tent encampments with people of all groups who have one demand: “the people demand social justice”. But it is not certain that they all agree as to the nature of the social justice they are demanding - what needs to be corrected in Israeli society and what the priorities are. It is not possible to bring all the protesters together to discuss the issue, but instead of going over their heads and guessing what their needs are, it is a rare opportunity to come to them.
In almost every city and town there is one encampment or more, and in most of the big encampments there is more than one group of people. In addition there are also groups of protestors who do not live in encampments, but who participate in protests, protest on line etc… This variety of protesters also reflects the variety of the concepts of social justice, of the sensitivities and needs of different groups. These different aspects have to be learned in order to know exactly what “social justice” means.
After we have learned this, there is also the more challenging issue of the priorities: will the reduction of the number of students in the classrooms come before or after the help to children with special needs? Will correcting public transportation come before or after infrastructure plans for the Arab towns and villages in Israel ? And I can ask many more questions, but I don’t think that I or any individual, need to give answers.
The protesters on the streets call for social justice, they call for a state in which they and their children will have a future, a state in which they could live with dignity, in which there is good public education, an excellent public health system, a place where an individual in trouble will be helped by state without him having to feel he is begging, a place where a disabled man or woman will receive a decent disability allowance, and not forced to be dragged through hell in order to be recognized as a disabled person, a place where there is the possibility of buying an apartment, or living at a distance of a train or bus ride from work.
Each group has its needs and it is not possible to formulate one document that will meet the needs of all the groups. Therefore, I call upon the government of Israel or a negotiating team on its behalf: Do not create round tables, go out to the street, visit every encampment, let people know when you are coming and invite everybody to come and tell you about their troubles, their thoughts, their wishes and their dreams.
Some of them will present economic facts and some their dreams. Be aware that most people will not come with a systematic plan. Listen with patience to people who have not been listened to before. Invite all the social organizations in the country - they are very experienced: listen to them. They also do not agree about everything and see things differently. Invite specialists from academia and from research institutes, listen to them also. Listen to every one.
And after this journey in the heat, return to your air-conditioned office and do what a government is supposed to do, create a new plan, a plan with a vision that will show us the direction in which you want to take this country and the way do to it. Then tell us the steps you are going to take during the coming year. And another thing – publish all the encampments’ protocols, all the documents and all the speeches. It might seem to be very demanding it terms of time and work, but this is exactly your job: to lead with transparency the aspirations and desires of the people, not to dictate your views. No social organization can replace you in this task.
Remember, we will judge you on this plan – does it reflect social justice or not ? Take advantage of this great opportunity. In these days of the month Av remember the warnings before the destruction of the Temples , remember why Jerusalem was destroyed, and remember the prophet Isaiah’s words:
“Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the LORD shall be thy rearward.” (Isaiah 58:7-8)