Anat Hoffman of IRAC and Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the IMPJ, joined forces for the latest IRAC newsletter to speak about the current protests being held in all major cities in Israel.
Dear Friends of IRAC
Over the last two weeks, it has been obvious that Israeli democracy is as strong and vibrant as it has ever been. The dissatisfaction of the Israeli middle class over the basic costs of living, be it food, housing, or education, has erupted into a series of mass protests in many of Israel’s cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, and Jerusalem. What started as a single protestor who set up her tent in Tel Aviv quickly turned into mass demonstrations and cross-country strikes.
The uniqueness of these protests, other than their sheer size, is the fact that, for the first time, Israelis from all different parts of society are joining together in these non-violent civil protests that illustrate the importance of these issues to everyone’s lives.
Social challenges were always part of the young State, and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) have been involved in activities to deal with such issues for years. In fact, eight years ago, we were one of the leading NGO’s in Israel that supported the single mothers’ protests when they took to the streets to fight for their rights. At the time, we publicly warned that if the government did not put the gradually developing socio-economic crisis at its forefront, not only single mothers, but the entire middle class would rise up in protest.
While we understand the complexities of these issues and Israel’s need to go through serious economic reforms in order to become a modern, global economy, we also believe that it is part of or religious and social responsibility to alert Israelis to the fact that the government has not paid enough attention to the middle class, to which the majority of Israelis belong. Israel must run its free market in a way that benefits all Israeli citizens rather than small factions that enjoy political leverage. After all, we believe that the people of Israel are as important as tanks and airplanes are, if not more.
In support of the protests and in addition to our ongoing social projects, lobbying, and advocacy work, IRAC and many Reform congregations in Israel have vowed to provide moral support to the protestors by holding Kabbalot Shabbat in the tent cities.
These housing protests prove that the key to any policy change will be mobilizing constituents. We want to build an Israel that can be a just home for all Jews and for all its citizens. While democracy is alive and well in Israel, the State is still not as free and democratic as it could be. Israelis have realized the power that they hold. Now we must keep them mobilized in order to bring about necessary changes.
Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Av. Av is traditionally the month of despair, but it is also the month of hope. These events reflect the frustrated feelings of many Israelis, but they are also a beacon of hope for the future—hope for a better Israel and a more just society.
Anat Hoffman, executive director of IRAC. and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the IMPJ
On July 30, Ynet News published an interesting article about the current protest situation entitled "Social activists: The revolution is here." By Naama Cohen-Friedman. Click on the link to read the article.