The age of reason

Our elected officials can work differently and be held accountable to each and every member of the electorate.

US President Barack Obama speaks to an overflowing crowd of millennials. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama speaks to an overflowing crowd of millennials.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At the cusp of 2018, Israelis whether secular or not have reason to celebrate the advent of a new reality, thanks to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the historic fact that Jerusalem is our capital.
Whether, or how many, countries still holding out against the march of reality will change their minds is less significant than the Palestinians finally being challenged to meet this test. This alone has the potential to undo the stalemate that has characterized this conflict for decades.
Jewish tradition speaks of two Jerusalems, the heavenly and the earthly, the first of which is more closely linked to divine providence while the latter is unfortunately pegged to the world antisemitism index. But the world has more pressing problems than those that particularly concern the Jews, and it will be up to the coming generation of the often-disparaged millennials to deal with them.
Fortunately, they are an optimistic group of people. According to the annual Global Shapers Survey of the World Economic Forum – and despite the stereotype that millennials are selfish and apathetic – the generation from 18 to 35 is deeply concerned about serious global issues and wants to work hard to fix them.
According to the WEF, an overwhelming majority of 70% of millennials views the world as full of opportunities. Some 50% believe they can significantly contribute to the leadership of their home countries.
These are the top 10 most-critical problems of the world, according to some 26,000 millennials surveyed in 181 countries, in descending order:
Lack of economic opportunity and unemployment; food and water security; lack of political freedom and political instability; lack of education; safety, security and well-being; government accountability, transparency and corruption; poverty; religious conflicts; war; climate change; and loss of natural resources.
These are the issues that are most pressing for a significant majority of the world. These people care about the well-being of others, about having a high quality of life and ensuring that their future – and that of their children – will be safe, secure and promising.
For example, some 32% of millennials in sub-Saharan Africa are concerned with world government issues, followed by Latin America/the Caribbean (27%) and the Middle East/North Africa (23.2%).
Climate change is the most vital issue to millennials in Latin America/Caribbean (51.8%) and South Asia (49.3%).
If you go back to earthly Jerusalem, though, the outlook at the beginning of the New Year is much less optimistic, as may be seen in the Knesset’s schedule for the first week of 2018. There, the Israeli parliamentarians are busying passing bills that have nothing to do with the betterment of society. The Police Recommendations Law, approved last week after a historic filibuster, is just the latest example. It has nothing to do with the average citizen.
The divided house will try to pass into law the controversial supermarket bill that would countermand a ruling by the High Court of Justice regarding operations on Shabbat. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will discuss the even-more-controversial bill on conscription exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.
Perhaps the most explosive question will be discussed by the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee: “Does the Interior Ministry apply a policy of discrimination against Conservative converts and their countries of origin?” This is due to the recent disgraceful denial of entry to Kenyan Jewish leader Yehudah Kimani, who was jailed overnight and deported to Ethiopia despite having a valid visa for study at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Israelis have grown accustomed to this reality, but it is time we realize it does not have to be this way. Our elected officials can work differently and be held accountable to each and every member of the electorate.
The New Year beckons with a universal call to meet the tests of reality.