A year after the eruption of the 2011 social protest in Israel, and just before the 2013 election campaign, we — a small group of the protest leaders — decided to embark on a cross-country journey to learn what had changed during the intervening months, and to find out how Israelis would like the protest movement to expand and remain active.
We traveled from Eilat to Safed. We met high school and yeshiva students; we passed through retirement homes; we visited kibbutzim that were successful in preserving their communal character and kibbutzim that were not; we spoke with Arab students and with ultra-Orthodox Jewish teachers, and we asked everyone the same question: Should the social protest movement find a way into institutional politics?
The responses were divided by age. Over 35, everyone answered, unequivocally, yes. Under 35, the majority of the responses were “Absolutely not.”
Israeli youth, like many young people all over the world, do not believe in politics. They don’t believe in politics because shortly after their mandatory army service during which they commit two or three years of their life to serve the society and the state, they feel abandoned by that society and state.
The available role models for these young people never looked less impressive. A former president serving a jail sentence, a former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs with ongoing trials, and a large number of civil servants accused of sexual offenses, corruption or plain opportunism. The basic contract between the state and its citizens was so utterly shattered that in many places these youth decided that their form of protest will simply be not to participate.
When I decided to run for office, I dreamed of being a bridge between the thousands who shouted “The people demand social justice” and politicians, budgets and compromises. After a rather odd election campaign, we may not have the Knesset for which we prayed, but on the bright side it does include almost 50 new politicians, many of whom came from social and educational enterprises.
I have the great honor of being one of many politicians who knows that if we do not make our politics cleaner, more transparent and more participatory, they will continue to drive away excellent talent and distance sane voters, and, with time, our governing class will become smaller and more corrupt.
If there is one element that binds the young people who have protested against governments all over the world in recent years, it is an embrace of technology. Unlike our parents, we learned freedom through our fingers.