Israel is a country born out of suffering. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was turned to the path of Jewish Statehood when he saw the rising anti-Semitism in France and knew, with the escalating pogroms in Eastern Europe, something much more sinister was on its way. He could have never comprehended the horror of what was to come. Hitler’s gas chambers and death camps dealt a swift blow to the untermenschen who were sent there but the Jewish people emerged from the Holocaust, battered and bruised but alive, and demanded the fulfillment a dream we had deferred for 2,000 years. A part of the dream goes unfulfilled and that is something that we must fix before any more of our citizens find it necessary to destroy their bodies along with their hopes and dreams.
Faced with the imminent prospect of destruction the newly declared State of Israel turned all of it’s attention to the defence of her people. Everyone was required to do their part in ensuring that the nation would survive and the less important aspects of society were to be dealt with when her security was ensured. Unfortunately the attacks never ceased and peace was never declared. From the War of Independence in 1948 came the cross border attacks in the 1950s, to the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Israel never truly felt that the war that began in the 1940s had truly finished. Today we are dealing with a multitude of threats. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, with her frighteningly large stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, is teetering on the edge of destruction and of course the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Because of this Israel has never stopped to truly examine the myriad of social problems that are plaguing this country. Because of this her citizens are pushed to the breaking point.
We saw the first cracks in the glass last year over the simplest of reasons: the price of cottage cheese. From this came a torrent of protest as if the entire nation was screaming out in frustration and anger after being suppressed for so long. We saw the emergence of the tent cities rise up and suddenly Israel had her own Depression-era Hoovervilles, a Bibiville if you will, and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand change. It was a change that would never come. The government would implement superficial measures but one year on we see that nothing has changed. This is what has led some of the more desperate, and some of the more disturbed, citizens to protest with both their words and their deeds.
We have seen over the last few weeks a disturbing trend of self-immolation amongst those who have suffered. Hopefully the government is seeing the light of the flames all the way from the windows of their offices in Jerusalem and realizing that something has to be done. Israel has to change. We can no longer live in the mentality of waiting to fix these problems when the attacks against us cease. We can no longer wait to address the social issues. We cannot wait for Iran to be disarmed or for the Syrian issue to quell before we take a good, long look at ourselves and realize that something must be done to fix this beautiful country.
New Olim will always meet people who are shocked to find that they have immigrated from such havens as America, Australia or England. They demand to know why they would give up their comfortable lives in these countries for a life in Israel that is significantly worse. What these people fail to realize is that Israel could very easily become the next Australia, America or England. We have the ability, the desire and, as Mitt Romney believes, we have the culture. We must reform this country. We must change the banking and finance system so we are no longer an oligarchy, we must change the social fabric so that the secular middle class are not subsidizing the lives of Haredim who shut themselves off in their Yeshivas and refuse a modern education, we must stop building hotels in the West Bank and start building apartments for citizens within Israel and we must, we must, we MUST do away with the corrupt officials and the belief that protexia is the way that one can run a country. In a modern country it should not be who you know that gets you a good job but what you can do. Israel must emerge from the defensive mentality that it has been stuck in for the past 64 years and start focusing on everything that is wrong with this country.
For a country that is always on the brink of destruction Israel has managed to survive somewhat. She has built up a relatively successful economy based on high-tech and innovation, she has implemented a health system that, whilst imperfect, ensures that her citizens are covered come what may and she has managed to foster a home for persecuted Jews everywhere. But all of this has come at the expense of scores of social issues and problems. It has come to the point where her own citizens are setting themselves aflame. This act harkens to the oppressed regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. We are not at that stage. But we are getting there. Israel must become the phoenix and be reborn out of the ashes of her suffering people.