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The Summer of Our Discontent

If you have been keeping up with the mass demonstrations in Israel and are scratching your head to figure out exactly what’s going on, you are not alone.  Many Israelis, myself included, are similarly perplexed.

I’ll give you an example.  I had the following conversation with my grown kids.  My son and daughter-in-law, both hardworking Israelis raising four small children, and burdened with house, car, and childcare payments, thought the whole thing was laughable.

“Did you see who is leading the ‘baby carriage’ protest?’” My daughter-in- law  said.  “Two mothers  who have  ONE KID each who live in Herzliya.  Yeah, they want the government to give them more stylish baby buggies!  And who is going to pay the taxes for it, me!”

The general gist of what I’m hearing from my kids is that: “They’re out there smoking and drinking in Tel Aviv, playing their guitars.  When the summer is over they will all go back home.”

Apparently, along with many others, they seem to feel the protests are politically motivated,  just another Leftist plot to overturn the will of the people who elected Benjamin Netanyahu.

And indeed, when a popular Sephardic singer who is identified with the poorer classes announced that the demonstrators were “a bunch of spoiled North Tel Avivians who are angry their grandparents didn’t leave them an apartment on (fashionable ) Rechov Bazel,” her statement was met by a storm of protest that reminded me of the way the Peace Nowers reacted to anyone suggesting the Oslo Accords wasn’t going to bring peace on earth and good will towards all men.  Indeed, there is a preponderance of left-wingers involved, including all the usual suspects in the arts.

But then I went to shul on Shabbat, and my very learned and truly pious rabbi, with whom I agree on almost every issue,  told the Bar Mitzvah boy: “Don’t let anyone tell you that these protests are fake.  They are in the name of social justice.”

Well, that made me think again.

It is certainly true that for the last year I have been looking at the bill coming out of the supermarket cash register with greater and greater amazement.  How can it be? I ask myself shocked, when the bottom line for a week’s food seemingly doubles and triples from week to week.  And we are just two people who don’t eat that much, admittedly with a grown son who does, but still.

I often wonder how a normal Israeli family can afford to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads on Israeli salaries.  And the truth is, the price of cottage cheese, bread, and other staples is higher than that in the U.S. or Europe, with no earthly justification.

On the other hand, we have an enviably robust economy, with very low unemployment rates, and no housing bubbles or disasters.  It is true that the gap between the tycoons that run the Israeli economy and the middle class who support their billionaire status  has widened, and the burdens that the Israeli public shoulder are heavy because of our defense budget.  And I certainly do sympathize with the medical interns who are quitting en masse because of low pay – 29 NIS an hour.  I pay my cleaning lady 40 NIS.

But I resent any public gimmick to unseat our duly elected government. And I resent the atmosphere of  self-appointed leaders threatening anyone who opposes what they are trying to do.

I think Bibi together with Stanley Fisher have done a magnificent job in keeping Israel’s economy  booming.

That is not to say I don’t sympathize with young families and students who are finding it hard to make ends meet.  But the list of demands by the so-called leaders “leaders” of this social protest, have been downright silly.  Public education starting at age three months?  Huh?

This has inspired many segments of society to issue their own demands.

Take the  Single Ladies Protest:

We served in the army.  Pay our taxes. Paid hundreds of shekel to JDate, and thousands in gifts for other people’s weddings. WE DEMAND SOMETHING IN RETURN.  It is not right that for every unemployed single drekky guy in Tel Aviv there are seven hot girls with a Master’s Degree!

It isn’t right that even our grandmothers are hoping already that we’re lesbians! At this rate we are never going to make the Young Couples Protest!

We demand a telephone call after every date and the re-education of bitter divorced men.  Girls, the sperm bank is not the answer!  We want a solution now!!”

When the weather cools down, and the tent cities disappear, we hope the government we elected and still support will figure out some way to make things better for everyone, whenever possible.

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24 comments on “The Summer of Our Discontent”

  1. Hector

    Watching a painting from 2 inches gives a false appreciation of its value. While retreating to give it the proper view distance, it is also recommended to see these events with the correct perspective.

    Years ago, Ronnie Reagan made some moves in the US that are only now resonating. Globally. It will be not only wrong but irresponsible to assume that all the massive revolts against “business as usual” worldwide are initiated, coordinated and organized by a single “extremist” entity.

    Let’s agree to toss away -isms, being on the left or right in the political spectrum. From the incredible slow-down of the “capitalist” United States economy; the savage and appalling work conditions in “socialist” China; the demise of the European Union we are witnessing a “generalized malaise” spreading like fire, everywhere. Notice the word spreading: it means that we have not reached the bottom. Far from it, there is still a long way down to the end of the tunnel. And in the process we are exhausting the Earth’s resources, polluting everything around us, congesting our cities and making everybody sick.

    If we do not open our eyes soon enough, we will find ourselves facing 1910 and 1929…again. With all the consequences those periods brought to the world. And these days, due to our technological prowess we are capable to increase the impact of those consequences, won’t you agree?

    Israel should learn the lesson and stop imitating the American Way of Life. Pay attention, it is only American and apparently failing miserably. See,7340,L-4130150,00.html

    There were times that even the Prime Minister shared a tent with others, permanently, and not in an area with proper support infrastructure Like Sderot Rothschild. Probably shared is the key word. All indications, in Israel and almost everywhere else show that sharing is basically disappearing while income gaps, tax obligations and access to services spread apart socially more and more by the minute. This is allowing a small number of individuals to enrich themselves beyond proportion on the shoulders of a huge population that finds almost impossible to make ends meet.

    So much for the so-called market economy.

    Like Al Blank said: WAKE UP! ISRAEL, PLEASE!

  2. Baba_Metzia

    Considering that the parents and grandparents of many of these “social justice” advocates came to Israel with just the clothes on their backs, living in tents on the beach for years (waiting to get any type of shelter with indoor plumbing) it is rather ironic when one examines the protester’s demands.

    Perhaps these younger Israelis need to study history, beginning with the First Zionist Congress at the end of the Nineteenth-Century. Maybe they need to start thinking as Zionists rather than as just citizens of simply another Mediteranean or European state.

    Are they upset that their great-grandparents were not part of the families that founded Tel Aviv, dreaming that had they been, they would today be owners of billions of sheckels worth of prime real estate? If so, then they should get over it. Most of this land–with few exceptions–was patriotically given by families such as these to the State or else left in living trusts to charitable organizations.

  3. Gilah

    Some of us just want affordable housing. Rents even in the north have gone up so much since 2006 that I can no longer afford the current asking price for an apartment. When I have to move in a few months because my current apartment has been sold I doubt I’ll be able to pay to rent another. If I do find something I can afford I may find myself trapped in an apartment that won’t hold my appliances and even a part of my furniture and that I won’t be able to easily get in and out of because of physical problems. I don’t qualify, nor do I want public housing, but I would like to be able to rent an apartment on a minimum wage income and also know that I can stay in that apartment as long as I want and I’d like it to be handicap accessible. I am heartily sick of moving because there are no apartments in this country dedicated just as rental properties only. (This will be my 10th move in less than 20 years in this country. I’m no longer young and able to move easily.)
    I am not alone in this. Even those who want and need public housing can’t get it or are told they will have to leave their local support system and move somewhere else in order to MAYBE receive public housing.
    I, for one am not trying to bring down the current government, but the economic situation for those living on Bituach Leumi or even for those making minimum wage is dire. The rising price of groceries only makes matters worse.

  4. Prof. Melvin Propis MD

    Your Rabbi does not know the definition of social justice, as it is understood in the states. It means re-distribution of your wealth to anyone that can claim they have less than you. Have your Rabbi watch Rev. Wright (Obama’s minister) on u-tube, I believe he will stop using the term. Rather than the Government trying to slice the economic pie into ever smaller pieces, how about focusing on making the pie larger! What a concept!

  5. Binah
  6. Shelley

    I, as an American, can’t comment with what is happening in Israel’s, England’s and Norway’s discontent. Americans are too busy trying to find jobs, economy, deal with illegal immigration, crime, and our own discontent with ALL politicians. We are too busy thinking of ourselves that we have forgotten HaShem and the spiritual guidance we need. I pray that everyone in the world find this guidance. At Tish B’av we mourned the destruction of the two temples. Soon we will be in synagogues and shuls for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We will repent our sins. Maybe we will start looking outside our own needs and find what we really need in HaShem’s love.

  7. Norma

    Pray for the peace of Yerushalayim: They shall prosper that love thee. Tehillim 122:6
    The answer to all the protests, problems, and negative attitudes is that our people need to go back or return to Torah! Rosh Hoshanna will be here soon with the ten days of awe. During these days we need to look into our own selves to see what needs to be renewed and what we need to repent of to HaShem! Israel’s army always did well when they were right with HaShem. I am sure we will be better if we all get right with HaShem, living the way Torah teaches us. Israel is the apple of HIS eye! Naomi, may many blessings continue to fill you and your family’s homes! May HaShem guide Benjamin Netanyahu as he decides for Israel’s future. May He also guide the spiritual leaders of the land, the rabbis, to teach what is written and truth! My prayers go to all. Norma Ariel

  8. Uri

    Get rid of waste, yes. Subsidize the truly poor and disabled, yes. Lower taxes wherever possible, yes. Investigate whether utilities and other necessary commodities are unfairly overcharging their customers, yes BUT leave the rest of the economy alone. This is definitely a leftist prank that wants to be part of the (Arab) spring.

  9. Lynn M

    I am not an Israeli but am a Christian who supports Israel & its government. I am appalled at the lengths some people will go to unseat Netanyahu. As far as I can tell he has done a good job at keeping the wolf (Obama & the UN ) at bay. Why would Israeli citizens want to put their country at risk by acting up and dividing the country. As far as the economy goes I agree with Henrietta Katz’s sentiments – stay where you are. Tomatoes in New Zealand are $10 – $12 a kilo, Cheese $10 – $14 a kilo & a 2 litre of milk is nearly $5. Looks to me as if it is happening everywhere. We have children in our country who go to school to have their breakfast because their parents cant afford to feed them. Wake up – look after your country & your prime minister he has done good for you so far.


    I made aliyah 44 years ago.A youngster with a small suitcase,that was all my capital.
    Served in the army lived in different cities,worked hard and finally could buy a house in Gilo (then less than 10000 inhabitants) in Jerusalem: 40 sq.mrs for U$D 40000 and that was my base for improving and change for a better and bigger house.
    My children coming out of the army in a short time can only dream on buying their own home.
    Bibi and Stanley & co. care only about finance.Bibi’s concern is to be reelected.
    “Kol israel arevim ze le ze”.Israel is not a normal country and pure economic approach is simply not right (left or right are both wrong!!!)The mitzvot tell us to take care of the unposessed,widow and orphans !!! We have lost our minds with the nonexistent wealth of stock exchange.People point out to settlers and orthodox (political manipulation!!!of truth)The tycoons got an tax exempt of 4 000 000 000 (YES 4 bilion!!) shekels.Wake up guys everything about Judaism is TZEDEK. WAKE UP

  11. Al Blank

    As a non-religious American Jew who has never been to Israel, but nevertheless is a staunch Zionist and defender of Israel and her right to live freely, I am appalled and distressed at the suicidal tendencies of its citizens. From the Far Left activists who openly aid and abet the Muslims in their attempt to destroy Israel, to these spoiled protesters cluttering up the streets who are organized and encouraged by the Left in their dumb attempts to speed the political downfall of Netanyahu, to the real seditionist enemies in their midst in the Knesset (Arab and non-Arab,)while it’s real enemies are gathering like vultures around it’s borders to destroy it, it becomes clear that Israel, in the name of democracy, has become suicidal. WAKE UP ISRAEL! PLEASE!

  12. marci rapp

    We made Aliya 3 years ago and are still renting. We live in Jerusalem (Katamon) and are renting as we cannot find something to buy suitable for us that is affordable. As our daughter is in High School (YTA, a new school for Olim), we will stay in Jerusalem until after she graduates IY”H in two years. After that we are prepared to leave Jerusalem to ??? to purchase affordable housing. The problem is, although we can go AnyWhereInIsrael as there are Jews everywhere, we want to be in a place suitable for Middleaged Relgious Anglos. Jerusalem fits the bill. We started a business manufacturing in Israel in the hope of providing us with enough parnassa to accomplish this goal. I guess we will see what results of the housing protest brings within the next two years.

  13. sarah goodman

    So if we have a housing shortage, why kick people out of Migron? Where are they supposed to live then? And don’t forget how many were kicked out of Gush Katif
    Living in NYC, Paris, or London is also very expensive. Two of my grandchildren got married in the last few years. One couple lives in Lod, the other one in Pardes Chana. Not everyone needs to live in TA

  14. Hela

    Dear Naomi,

    You’re right and they are right. My question is
    “When everyone turns right, who’s left?”


  15. John B

    Yes, it is definitely about unseating Netanyahu and bringing in a government that will destroy Israel. Because that is what has happened under the left, and centre left’s watch, and what would happen again should they get hold of more of the levers of power. (They seem to hold the judiciary.)
    Sure there are severe problems.
    There are problems in the UK and there are riots. But the riots are not really about the problems. That is an excuse.
    The riots are about smashing up Britain.
    The very best to all in Israel and may you be guided by reality.
    If you let it slip, it’s gone.

  16. Paul Linden

    Noami, another great article, always a pleasure to read. However, I think you need to question your rabbi. The Torah states Justice, Justice shall you seek, not social Justice. The entire concept of social justice, modifying justice with mercy is not from the Torah, its a left wing attack on Justice.

  17. Ande

    I was in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and very confused about
    what I witnessed on Rothschild Boulevard. One group appeared to be pro-cow, the other group appeared to be anti-cow, and a third group seemed to just be having a cow. I was so amused I facetiously yelled, “If you kill the cows there will be more land to build apartments.” Good thing I wore my sneakers that day. I was chased by a group of angry, socialist, vegetarians, wearing flip flops, who were on their way home to their parents houses in Ramat Aviv.

    All joking aside, my wife’s sister is making Aliyah, B”H, on 8/30. Sure she loves Israel and misses her sister, but even with very good incomes they could not afford $30, 000 in tuition. And they are Masorti AND that was for one child in kindergarten and the other in nursery school! Don’t the
    Rothschild crowd pay attention to what is going on in America? Greece? Portugal? No, they are too busy listening to Yair Lapid and hoping Israel becomes more like Denmark.

  18. Henrietta Katz

    Bananas in Sydney cost between $13 and $18 a kilo.
    Peppers, apples and cucumbers about $10
    One challah is $5

    Stay where you are…..wish we could join you

  19. Shy Guy

    Both the leftist, socialist, Marxist, communist organizers of this protest, along with the government of Israel itself, are all tiptoeing around the the cause of and the solution to many of the problems being protested about: Israel’s absurd taxation rates to feed it ever-fattening government bureaucracy.

    Forget about the defense budget. Every ministry is bloated beyond reality. The Knesset itself feeds from the ever overflowing trough of taxpayer money to pamper its ministers (with and without portfolios) and their officer staffers and perks galore.

    Taking the budget knife to our precious bureaucratic beast would mean tossing myriads of redundant workers into the streets and eliminating corruption and bureaucratic laws and regulation which hinder every aspect of personal and economic life in Israel. If someone would finally get rid of the useless paper pushers, we could have a flat tax of 20%-25% and possibly a zero corporate tax, which would attract Jews with capital to this country like never before and move businesses here, providing employment in all sectors of competitive economic life.

    So why is no one mentioning this – not the government nor the protesters? Because they all know it means the spigot of seemingly endless money to fund their unions, parent’s/aunt’s/sibling’s/spouse’s useless public clerk jobs, and special causes will all come to an end. No pain, no gain.

    Look at this chart and spot the relevant anomaly:

    Government Spending as a % of GDP

    It’s been that way for a long time. It’s the reason why Tax Freedom Day comes so late for the average Israeli:

    Israelis celebrate Tax Freedom Day on June 29th this year: 7 days later than in 2010

    How does it feel, fellow Israelis, to pocket only 6 out of 12 months of your salary? Even that statistic is underestimated, when you calculate in the VAT and numerous other government and municipal taxes we fork over every day of every week for the most essential of items.

    Who’s protesting about any of this? Ask yourself why not.

  20. Louie

    Remember back in the 80s?
    There was runaway inflation – the shekel (not NIS – the OLD shekel) was losing value daily.
    Technology workers were being given bi-monthly raises to offset rampantly rising costs.
    I recall – upon leaving Israel in the mid 80s – I could have outfitted an official Monopoly game with actual currency (so many 500s, so many 100s, etc) for about $35 US.

    a lesson not learned is a lesson repeated

  21. Gamla

    Herb correctly states that the real story is who is funding the housing protest. As Daniel Doron wrote in last week’s Wall Street Journal “Not surprisingly, radical elements are trying to exploit legitimate grievances to unseat Mr. Netanyahu, who is trying to overcome oligarchs’ and bureaucrats’ stiff resistance to reform.” It has been reported that the New Israel Fund is prominent among those funding the tent protests, together with their Israel allies on the left. It appears that the Prime Minister will respond with a substantive program to cut through the regulatory morass and create additional housing, perhaps including new housing in the communities over the green line.

  22. Herb

    Is there really a single ladies protest? If so, bring men from Birthright missions there

  23. Herb

    The real story here is who is funding this protest? If people cannot afford houses in Ramat Gan, why cant they buy houses on S Tel Aviv or Jaffa. Somehow migrants from Africa can afford to live there, so Israelis should be able to afford it. The tents are also top of the line-someone outside of Israel is paying for this, perhaps the usual candidates-US State Dept, Soros, Norwegian and Irish NGOs. That to me is the real story

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