When Theodore Herzl wrote “Der Judenstaat”, when David Ben-Gurion read out the declaration of independence for the state of Israel and when Menachem Begin redefined Israeli politics, I doubt any of them could have anticipated the problems their successors would face in the twenty first century.
All of those original godfathers of Israel are long gone and now we face the test of seeing whether a generation who has only ever known a world with Israel in it can shoulder the burden of leading it.
So far they aren’t doing so well.
Corruption reigns and lethargy among the populace is mixed with bouts of tremendous grassroots activism. Activism that has gone nowhere. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets and marched and were met by promises for change and commissions of inquiry that led nowhere. Recently Ethiopian Israelis burned and rioted against the oppression they have been suffering for decades from the very people sworn to protect them. Their actions weren’t just met with condemnations, they were met by startling admissions from senior police chiefs that they had known this was a problem all along.
They knew and they did nothing. For years.
The Prime Minister did something immediately after the riot though, he had a nice photo op with some black kids. It is easier to pose for a picture than it is to enact real change, to take genuine measures to curb the racism that runs rampant throughout Israel.
Hope in the land of people who sing of it at every opportunity is fading fast.
But it is not dead.
We like to look at our country and marvel at our accomplishments but until we look at our accomplishments and recognise how it was we achieved them we are doomed to be unable to repeat them. Until we look at the Tel Aviv skyline and marvel not just at our ability to create on this land but understand our creations only exist because of the Arabs who physically built them. Until we recognise that we cannot continue to grow as a country with a workforce that is shrinking with each new generation because it’s just too hard to get the Haredim into the work force, until we recognise that we cannot protect a country indefinitely by locking ourselves in an electronic, missile protected bunker our hope will remain hollow.
But then this government wasn’t elected out of hope, it wasn’t elected to build a glowing future, it was elected to repeat the mistakes that led us down the rabbit hole, it was elected out of fear. If this government had a mantra (and I suspect it wouldn’t be able to agree on one) it would be “change nothing, deal with nothing”.
But even now under optimum circumstances, even when the Likud did far better than anyone had predicted, it still lacks the authority needed to form a government with anything but the slenderest of margins.
But the left didn’t do anything either. Saying it’s him or us and then failing to provide a vision of what a Labour led Israel would look like is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate.
To do better the left needs to offer Israelis hope for a better future. They need to offer a vision of a country that educates all of its citizens, that treats them all equally, that places the burden on all equally rather than educating some for a lifetime of work and service and others for a lifetime wasting away behind closed doors. They need to show Israelis that it’s possible to have a state of Israel without occupying Palestinians until the end of time.
They need to offer a vision of a country whose government exists for the people rather than the other way around.
They need to offer a vision of an inclusive Israel rather than appealing to several fractured societies living inharmoniously next to each other. To offer real hope we need leaders with the courage to address the problems in society as a whole rather than those willing to buy political power at the cost of the future of the country. A leadership willing to risk stirring up the wrath of the old guard, those so hopelessly entrenched in their positions of power that they will stir up baseless hatred between Israelis in order to hold on to their piece of the pie.
I look forward to to an Israeli leadership willing to roll up its sleeves and grapple with the issues that have seen poverty rise, racism exacerbated, occupation further entrenched and international isolation.
I won’t see it in this government, but I have hope I will see it in the next one.
What other choice do I have?