Stay in the tents, it’s not over yet

The tent protest must continue. Its achievements until this point have been tremendous, but it has great potential for more. Who would have believed just one month ago that most sectors of lsraelis would present a united social front? Years after we claimed that the Knesset was out of touch with the public, the tent protest is reconnecting the loose ends of social rights and forcing the government to take a deeper interest in its ctizens.

The tent protests have brought hundreds of thousands into the streets, painting the public canvas with their political and social demands. But they could do more. They could bring more than 1 million people into the streets, and in doing so make history by creating the greatest social protest the country has ever known. One million people demanding total economic and social change would constitute a unique and grand social movement, proving to the government that the demand for change has sweeping support across the entire population.

A few days ago, I woke up in the morning and heard the neighbor’s kids yelling, “The people want social justice!” The tent protests, which started small, are now rooted among the people. They will continue to influence the coming generation, as well as those of us, like me, who are in our 40s. We have never seen a movement like this in Israel, one that demands swift implementation of the principles of social and welfare-state justice. Our school teachers never taught us about the origins of the Black Panther movement in Israel. But who can forget the powerful speech delivered by former Black Panther leader Charlie Biton to more than 300,000 protesters last week? We are learning while we march. More than 40 years have passed since the Israeli incarnation of the Black Panthers held their protests, and we are currently in the midst of something that is close to a non-violent revolution.

The tent protests must continue because they are jubilant, creative, talented, and fresh. My partner and I took a tour of the tent camps across the country, from Tel Aviv to Kiryat Shmona. At each camp, we heard demands that reflected the local environment. In every place, we were greeted warmly, with curiosity and glee. This is the Israel of 2011 — we will all remember it. An Israel that opens its tents to social justice, and to all who come to visit her.

It’s an Israel with a new multicultural vision.

Upon returning from the wonderful protest in Beersheba, I met a few protesters from the Levinsky Street tents, and we discussed the protest’s political achievements. They were curious what I thought could be done. Among other possibilities, I mentioned returning public monies tied up in socially related budgets, instilling company tax hikes, refunding inheritance tax money, and adopting a higher progressive tax plan. But I explained that the solutions should not be temporary. Any change in the government’s budget (increasing government incomes and expenditures) must be accompanied by persistent protests to make sure that when change does come, it is here to stay.

The tent protest is our way of jolting the current political environment and pointing out its failures. It was not proper that the Prime Minister asked to meet with tent protest leaders with no cameras present while passing the National Housing Committees Law, which privatized government owned land. It’s not proper that while hundreds of thousands filled the streets from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona, the Knesset took a vacation. This is simply unheard of.

The people demand change. Real change. If the protest ends now, there will be no real and deep change.

This article was first published on Israel Hayom

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About Mati Shemoelof

משורר, עורך וסופר. A Writer

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