In 2002 we made our second aliya. Twenty eight years previously we had returned to the States, enriched by our kibbutz experience, to begin another phase in our lives. What we came away with and what neither of us had ever had in our previous lives, was a feeling of belonging, of being a member of the Jewish family, and an attachment to Israel which never left us or our young children..
Kibbutz life had been great for me, but the missus missed her parents. She was uncomfortable with her perceived lack of choices.
Pick fruit? Prune trees? Tend irrigation lines? “Great!” said I.
Work in the kitchen? Shove valves in hose ends in the kibbutz factory? “Phooey!” said she.
But the pull was always there and in 2002 we moved to Tel Aviv.
We found an apartment we loved in the city center, near Rabin Square and the Iriya (City Hall). I taught English half a day in a high school, and studied linguistics in a Masters Degree program run in Tel Aviv by, of all places. the University of Liverpool. My wife, Rena worked as a volunteer for AACI and HIAS and twice a week we both took language classes in an ulpan. We loved city life, made many new friends and once again life was good.
Except for the garbage piled in the streets.
When the municipal unions went on strike, (three times in three years) the trash was not collected. It piled up helter skelter on the sidewalks, blocked foot traffic and soon began to fill the air with a malodorous miasma. And things haven’t changed much. A news article in the 21Jan issue of Haaretz reported that
“Close to 20 labor disputes have been officially declared at major Israeli companies and organizations. In the public sector, strife has hit the Israel Lands Authority, the Housing and Construction Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the ports and the Economy Ministry. Meanwhile, in the private sector, tempers are flaring at Migdal Insurance, Israel Discount Bank and Israel Chemicals”.–etc.
Labor strife in Israel is out of step with a modern country. The unions think nothing of closing seaports and airports, holding the entire nation hostage, effectively shutting it down. It reminds me less of a contract dispute and more like the old Monty Python bit with the Mafiosi, demanding protection money. “Nice army base you got here Colonel. Too bad if anything happened to it, wouldn’t it?”
Now the diplomatic corps is on strike! Why not?? Are ambassadors, foreign consuls and other members of Israel’s foreign service corps paid less than they’re worth? It could be. Do they have plum jobs? Absolutely! How many Israelis wouldn’t like to represent the country? Not many. Wouldn’t I love to be the Ambassador to, say, South Africa? You bet I would. And regardless of the issues, shutting down Israel is by any reasonable standard a third world tactic.
Will we next see the Knesset closed down because the MK’s and their staffs don’t feel they receive high enough salaries? Tzippi Livni on strike because Netanyahu earns more? Netanyahu on strike because Angela Merkel earns more?
It’s time I think to find a better way.