A few days ago, I found an interesting thread on Twitter made by an old friend I have known since high school. He described the evolution of the relationship between Jewish communities in Argentina and Israel during our youth, around the time of disengagement from Gaza. At some point, the political decision of many Jewish community centers was to change the sign “Con Israel y por la paz” (With Israel and for peace) to “Con Israel, siempre” (With Israel, always). It can be read as a slight change, but, in my friend’s view, this choice revealed a core problem between Israel and the diaspora: an increasing lack of criticism of Israel’s actions in our generation, which is still today, a problem I also see.
When I started thinking about the 60-60 podcast, my first challenge as an Olah who does not know many people here was to find the right voices to explain Israeli politics from the perspective of different parties. Israeli voters looked very disappointed with the situation and the system in general. As we discussed with Bar Gissin, the same voices and the same faces are still in the Knesset after four unsuccessful rounds. What could change now? The politicians, in their campaigns, don’t sound very convincing either. They all show nice and serious faces and claim they are the only ones who can. It’s not very clear what is that thing they can do, but maybe their voters don’t need an explanation. I decided, then, to talk with the activists.
I was an activist myself in Argentina. I often saw how spaces of political activism invited open debate, inclusion of different perspectives, self-criticism, and acceptance of disagreement. All is so needed when we are locked into our echo chambers of everyday life and media sources. I was wondering if that is the same in Israel. Alma Ehrlich, the 22-year-old student we interviewed for our last episode, is proof of that. For her, being an activist means supporting her ideas, going to the streets to put up signs of Haavoda, and simply “finding herself with a bunch of cool people trying to change the world for the better.” I am thinking about how sharing your time and energy just to pursue ideas you believe in is something we should not take for granted in politics. I know it can sound naive, but when we feel exhausted and complain about the fact that the same 60 old men are holding their sits in parliament for four years and not even forming a coalition, maybe we can find comfort in looking at those who are in the dark discussing and supporting ideas for the future, trying to recover faith. Not only Alma, but also all the other people we discussed with: these are the ones who should be on billboards inviting us to vote for their parties. Parties are tools, I remember Bar saying, but not the essence, Because the essence is the public.
Post-covid, there is a big wave of Argentinian olim coming to Israel. Some of them are facing a challenging reality they didn’t dream about. My friend on Twitter was disappointed that Jewish middle-class millennials idealize this country so much that they are doing aliyah and finding out only once they are here that this country is not perfect. Maybe it’s related to the fact that things usually look different from afar. Maybe it is also related to the fact that our parents, the ones who educated us and sent us to Jewish institutions, grew in a very different environment than us. As teenagers, they developed their critical perspective under a bestial dictatorship. At these times, a common phrase on people lips was “El silencio es salud” (silence is health). This regime kidnapped and killed all critical voices in a systemic plan.
My friends and I were raised by people who were told not to be critical and not to make too much noise because their lives could be at risk. So maybe activism is not only the key for those who lost their fault because they voted five times in only four years, but also for us, the new voters: to be inspired and relearn, with new and fresh examples, how to be citizens, and how to re gain agency over the countries and the world we live in.