A View from Israel: Winds of change
Can the country’s citizens unify in a joint effort to prepare a better future for everyone?
Shas leaders meet with President Shimon Peres. Photo: REUTERS
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your
– John F. Kennedy
“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but
tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson
reasons, the top headlines of recent weeks have been centered on the forming of
the new government coalition. Compared to past post-election occasions, this
frenzy is different. Instead of fighting solely over which party gets which
ministry, this time there are actual demands being made that need to be met in
order to move forward. The draft, the number of ministers, the Palestinian issue
and the electoral threshold have all been made central focal points in
determining what the coalition will look like.
And with each new
development, it seems as if the summer 2011 social protests and the recent
election have truly borne fruit. The public may finally receive the change it
Instead of waiting until the government is formed and then
attempting to implement change, this time Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi appear to
have gotten a jump-start on their campaign promises to introduce real change on
important issues by making it a critical condition to their joining the
It’s easy to get caught up in group-think and go with the flow.
While many government officials ask, “If everything appears to be going
smoothly, why change anything?” the public has lost patience with this
debilitating attitude and now demands immediate change and improvement. The
January 22 election highlighted public discontent with the present state of the
country’s internal affairs, and it seems as though change is on the
Of course, not everyone agrees with change. Shas’s Arye Deri has
made it clear that he is displeased with the demands being made by Yesh Atid and
Bayit Yehudi to introduce change. The haredim are happy with the status quo. With Shas and United Torah Judaism in the government, there is funding for
schools and yeshiva boys get to sit and study.
But sometimes change is
necessary. Sometimes, change can introduce something better. The poverty cycle
that exists and is encouraged in haredi society must come to an end. I don’t
want to be constantly approached by haredi men looking for rides because they
can’t afford public transportation. I want them to have the opportunity to earn
a living and live in dignity. And I have no doubt that many of these people feel
the same way, but are uncomfortable looking for a job out of fear of what their
community will think.
Ultimately, this may be a good opportunity for Shas
and UTJ to join the opposition and reflect on where they are leading their
In an interview on Sunday, UTJ’s Ya’acov Litzman appeared
to say that the Likud-Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi parties would not be easily
forgotten for leaving the haredim out of the government, explaining that they
cannot harm the haredim and then expect to be friends.
He even said the
“herem” (excommunication) against Netanyahu may last for a while.
also lashed out and blamed Netanyahu for excluding the haredi community and
abandoning the weaker sectors of society.
He wrote, “An absurd situation
has arisen in which legitimate political movements in Israel can openly declare
that two million people should be excluded from government just because that’s
what makes them comfortable.”
But Deri has it wrong. The nation is indeed
fed up with the status quo. It is the fact that Shas and UTJ consistently
threaten the government over budgetary issues and education that makes the rest
of this country uncomfortable.
We live in a democracy and sometimes one
party or another must sit in the opposition. This time it’s their
It is time for leading rabbis to declare a change in their
community and their way of life. Gone should be the days when living in poverty
was considered an achievement or even acceptable. The haredi world needs to take
this opportunity to create a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) and
demonstrate unity among Jews. They have the capability to cross bridges and
connect with non-haredi Israelis.
And I know this because I see them
whenever I go to the hospital or pass a soup kitchen. There they are, breaking
down walls of social separation, visiting the sick and handing out treats to
young patients, whether secular or haredi or somewhere in between.
haredim have got it. They have the building blocks for social cohesion – for
sparking a connection with the rest of society. If they can reach out to
everyone else through charity and kindness, they can certainly reach out when it
comes to sharing the burden, defending the country and paying taxes.
this isn’t only about haredim. The social protests were also about lowering the
cost of living and bringing down housing prices. And there are plenty of other
issues that need to be dealt with as well.
As reported in The Jerusalem
Post earlier this week, Police Chief Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino said on Tuesday
that “youth violence is the No. 1 threat” and that it was “equal to external
threats,” such as terror threats on Israel’s borders. He lamented the state of
today’s youth, noting that much of the spike in violence in Israeli society is
emanating from teenagers and young adults.
Numerous other challenges face
our small country and we need to make changes on the ground in order to tackle
With US President Barack Obama visiting this coming week, it is
imperative that the country’s representatives in the Knesset decide that
cohesion and unity are important in order to properly confront the economic,
security, domestic, political and diplomatic challenges we face.
time to change. It is time for the public to help introduce the change it
It is said that “Your present circumstances are the result of
your past thinking and your future will be the result of what you are thinking
Let’s grab the future by its horns, implement changes for the
better and further develop a cohesive society.
Shas and UTJ take note:
Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together.