Tent City 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
We’re in the run-up to September, when Israel and the Palestinians have a date
with destiny at the UN. Abroad, attention is building, supporters on both sides
are turning up the volume. For Israel, for what it stands for, this is a time of
heightened significance that’s rising to a climax. Between September and the
Knesset assault on democracy, you could even say we’re in a moral
And the country’s young generation, its college students, its
best and brightest, its future leaders, have gone out into the streets to
protest for lower rents.
This is sad. This is a generation that, for all
its world music and world travel, is cut off from any political changes
happening in the world. They live in a country that’s retreating from the world,
that’s politically stagnant, petrified; they don’t like it, but they don’t know
how to change it, so the only material they have to work with, the only thing
they believe they might be able to improve, is their own personal
So forget these flotillas, forget the anti-dissent laws, forget
September, forget Israel and Palestine, forget the world – let’s just see if we
can do something about my rent, which is really killing me.
In their tent
camps in Tel Aviv, they talk about Tahrir Square to the TV reporters, that this
is their Tahrir Square. So sad. These are really bright, lively young people,
and their world is so narrow – because they live in a country that fears the
world, that tries to keep it out, that doesn’t let any new oxygen in, that has
grown old and so awfully cynical.
What a dismal country to be in if
you’re young and idealistic. Great place to party, but soul-killing. Maybe not
for young Israelis who fight to change it, but there are so few of
They have so much energy, Israel’s young people, and they have
nothing larger than themselves to give it to.
They wish they did – they
envied their Egyptian peers in Tahrir Square, they envied the young Americans
who mobilized for Obama. They want to do it here in Israel, and they sense that
this country needs real change, a brand new direction, that it’s eating itself
alive – but they don’t know which way to go or how to get there.
a lost generation. They’re not right-wing, they’re not left-wing, they’re
wingless. They’re grounded. They want careers, family, travel, the good life,
but they’re empty inside. They don’t believe in settling the West Bank, they’re
waiting in resignation for the next war, they don’t think there will ever be
peace. They have no vision of a healthy future for this country – none of the
“leaders” here has described one to them – and they feel disconnected from the
rest of the world, so they live in their little circles and don’t think about
what’s beyond, because out there it’s just bad and getting worse.
what makes this doubly sad is that these young people are not by nature selfish
or self-absorbed; Israelis grow up around people, around friends and family, and
they learn to look out for each other. These students in the tent camps care
about each other. They’d like this rent protest to grow into something bigger,
into Tahrir Square – but for what cause? They don’t know, and when this is over,
they’ll go back inside their little circles and close their ears to the racket
that’s getting louder outside.
This is not what the young generation should be doing in a country like
this at a time like this. In the past, there would have been tens of
thousands, hundreds of thousands in the streets protesting against the
government, demanding peace with the Palestinians.
MOST ISRAELIS would probably say that today’s young are just acting
rationally, that they didn’t give up on peace, peace gave up on them.
It’s not true – the whole world is trying to tell Israel it’s not true –
but people here refuse to believe it, and this is the country in which
these college students in their sleeping bags have grown up. A country
that’s cut itself off from the world, from the future. So these young
people take all that great energy and social conscience and hope and
pour it into the cause of lower rents, while the nation of Israel goes
on like an old, paranoid shut-in screaming out the window.
As the local saying goes, an outsider can’t understand it.The writer blogs at Israel Reconsidered (www.israelleft.com).