Michal Cotler-Wunsh

Electric Bikes, shorts and FIFA

A year used to seem like a long time. At different stages of life, a year represented 365 days; incredible learning opportunities; life altering professional prospects; 4 seasons; sufficient time for an entire pregnancy including the miracle of child birth; the time that it takes for the Earth to move in its orbit around the sun.

A year has passed since many in Israel and around the globe came together in prayer and support for three kidnapped teens and their families. A year so intensely filled with breaking news of tragedy and challenge that it is difficult to believe that the time has passed. A year in which the free and democratic world has been rudely awakened from its slumber, only to discover a gruesome reality that it does not even possess the tools to comprehend. A year in which demarcated borders have dramatically changed, creating new realities that are defined daily by individuals, organizations and States playing according to a completely different set of rules. A year that has revealed that notions, concepts and institutions that were designed to protect the free world have been perversely hijacked and are turning against the very values they were meant to protect.

In Israel, it seems that the passage of time is further intensified by certain objective and subjective conditions to a point that a year becomes a blur. Geography, culture, weather and the concept of a six day work week all render the passage of time untraceable. It is one of the possible explanations for the fact that as a society, we seem to constantly be putting out fires. The daily tasks take over and it is difficult to raise our heads for a bird’s eye view. This reactive, responsive daily existence is precisely what electric bikes, shorts and FIFA have in common.

Among so many others, these are simply manifestations of a psychology of a country that has not come up for air for long enough to reflect and strategize on long term vision and mission. Rather than heading off the anticipated results created by lack of policy, it is a country that tackles those manifestations with procedures and regulations. The norm has become to abruptly awaken to a reality that must be addressed rather than to create a reality. We are so preoccupied by the burning fires that must be extinguished that we often neglect to expose what caused the fire in the first place.

There are 150,000 electric bikes on Israel’s sidewalks endangering the lives of pedestrians and of the riders themselves. Only yesterday a three year old girl was badly injured, adding to the growing number of individuals that have been injured and even killed by this out of control phenomenon. High school students are fighting for equality to be exercised in school regulations surrounding the length of their shorts and sleeves. Justifiably, so incensed are they by the applications of rules only to girls that they have rallied around this and are planning a mega demonstration. In world soccer, the PM of Israel, along with other public figures, must intervene in order to ensure that Israeli teams are not banned from the worlds’ soccer field.

In a corrected, normative, democratic society the real question is not how to cope with the reality that hits citizens over the head but rather what reality they hope to create. Rather than reacting, rather than being defined by outside threat and being consumed by the urgency to address challenges as or after they arise, citizens charge their elected leaders with the mandate to begin creating a long term outlook that has a vision and mission in every aspect of civilian life.

The electric bike phenomenon was bound to create challenges. In anticipation of the general and specific challenges it was anticipated to create in Israel, there needed to be long term policy, well thought out regulations and clear educational messaging.

The shorts phenomenon has nothing to do with religion or sexuality. It is yet another manifestation of the desire of educational institutions to create a respectful environment necessary for meaningful learning. Regulations regarding school uniform or dress codes are acceptable in the finest educational institutions world-wide. Much thought and planning is invested in creating these policies which are relevant to all students – regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or religious affiliation. In advancing the long term vision and mission of educational institutions, it is but one way of creating a respectful atmosphere.

The boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) efforts are an integral part of a well-planned, sophisticated PR infrastructure that seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel. The most recent efforts in FIFA are but one manifestation a long term vision ironically launched in the Durban World Conference against Racism in 2001. It is but one example of the careful and clever execution of its publically stated mission.

Electric bikes, shorts and FIFA are only manifestations of real and growing issues and challenges. If we are to effectively address them, it is time to pause, strategize and roll out a long term plan with a clearly stated vision and mission in every regard. Among others, we must outline the long term vision and mission for the future of transportation; we must outline the long term vision and mission for the future of education; we must outline the long term vision and mission for the future of public diplomacy.

The clear infectivity of government leadership in tackling these challenges and setting the long term plans lead to multiple, well intentioned, civic efforts and intervention of the courts. Despite the fact that more often than not they are led by pure intentions or lack of choice, just as often they attest to the fact that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The suggested long term planning route is not a popular one. It does not have immediate results and direct benefits. It requires patience and faith, neither abundant in our neck of the woods. It requires that a transportation system pause its bulldozing today in order to reflect on what will be needed tomorrow. It requires that the educational system stop focusing on the student today and internalize the kind of real investment that should be made in the teachers. It demands that everyone gather around the table, removing blinders of convenience or petty politics, transcending differences and ego, in order to connect the dots and see the larger picture affecting us all.

Mostly, it requires a maturity and acceptance that if we want to be here in the long term, we must plan long term and stop living here one day at a time while hoping for the best. It requires that we unite from a positive place of choice and not because we are forced to do so by outside threat. It requires that we identify and focus on what unites us and not what sets us apart, not only when tragedy or catastrophe hit, but rather in the few and rare blessed days in between.

A year has passed since I shared my reflections for the first time utilizing this platform in “A Mother’s Plea”. 365 days have passed and we are not a day closer to raising our heads above basic tasks of every day survival. Four seasons have passed and we are no closer to knowing what we are planning for the school year beginning in the fall of 2015. Hundreds of babies were born and we are no closer to knowing what their future holds or even what they can hope for. The Earth has completed another full cycle of its orbit around the sun and there is no indication that we any closer to a new dawn.

May the memory of the three teens and the impact of the responsible and hopeful message relayed by their courageous families be a source of strength and inspiration in our collective transition from reactive to proactive, from executers of short term military operations to long term strategic thinkers and doers. May the incredible sense of unity that was dictated by heinous external forces, sadly reserved for times of crisis, be translated into an every-day unity that we opt into, of our own free will, based on a deep sense of shared values and commitment.

About the Author
The writer is a lawyer, research fellow, and policy and strategy advisor. She served as an MK in Israel’s 23rd Knesset, co-founding the International Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.
Related Topics
Related Posts