This year we must create a credible alternative for Israel

Israeli society is a learning, fighting, entrepreneurial, volunteering, critical, skeptical society.

Israelis fly kites on Rosh Hashana (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israelis fly kites on Rosh Hashana
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Soon the sounds of the shofar will fill the land of Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora, for “on the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.”
In Jewish tradition Rosh Hashana commemorates God’s coronation as King of the universe and over man, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and marks an opportunity to repent – for Rosh Hashana is also the Day of Judgment. Rosh Hashana today is meaningful as a day of commemoration for the people of Israel, also for those who don’t keep tradition and define themselves purely as secular. With the new year, we return to the successes, the failures, the love and disappointments we’ve had, and vow to make an effort and do more for ourselves, for our dear ones, and for the world at large in the year to come.
As Knesset members, our soul searching ought to be particularly bold. On this new year we must ask ourselves: have we done enough to alert the public about the growing threat from the Iranian-Syrian-Russian front on the northern border, or about the prospects of another war with Hamas in the south? And how did we reach a situation in which the solution to all of these dangers – peace – has become almost taboo in the Israeli discourse?
With the sealing of 5777 and the genesis of 5778, we must ask ourselves: how do 250,000 disabled persons end up protesting for months without a decent pension and a cure to harsh poverty? We must inquire as to why our teachers are paid the least among OECD countries, while our number of students per classroom is the highest? Why do we hear so often of positive growth rates in the market and impressive high-tech exits, and yet so many retired citizens are forced to choose between food and medicine, so many young citizens have to give up their dream of economic independence in light of perpetually rising housing costs? Why is every tenth worker in Israel a contract worker employed via a third party and whose rights and terms of employment are inferior to his/her directly employed colleagues?
And how did we reach a point in which instead of problems being fixed – such as the ongoing neglect and severe problems of veteran residents and asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv – we are left with one group incited against the other, and with a government-led delegitimization campaign against the Supreme Court, the media and even the IDF’s leadership?
Alongside these important questions, it seems that the most burning one revolves around the basic integrity of our government. The stories we are exposed to on a daily basis about the conduct of men working within the prime minister’s closest circles (regrettably they are indeed made up mostly, if not entirely, of men), and the automatic defense by the coalition members that follows – as if what’s at stake was a football match and not the holy of holies of Israeli democracy – amount to a new low in the Knesset’s history.
It seems that we are in the midst of a moral crisis that turned a slippery slope into a bottomless pit. On the affair of the Israeli submarine scandal, for example, it’s impossible to reconcile with the idea that the prime minister knew, saw or heard nothing. If he didn’t know, it’s terrible, and if he knew it’s all the more terrible.
Against all of these question marks is a robust Israeli society. It is a learning, fighting, entrepreneurial, volunteering, critical, skeptical society, that never settles for what’s available and always seeks to develop something better. It is for its 8,580,000 residents that we must do everything we can to create a credible alternative, one they can believe in and give a chance to.
This is my commitment and this is my hope for the new year. For my children, for my grandchildren and for Israeli society at large.
Shana Tova.
The author is the most veteran Knesset member. He is a former deputy prime minister, defense minister and environmental protection minister.