Over the weekend, we saw tens of thousands of Israelis take to the streets in Tel Aviv, filling Rothschild Boulevard with protesters against government corruption for the second Saturday in a row. The message they are sending could not be more clear: Israelis have had enough.
Over the past year, in the wake of wave upon wave of investigations into corruption, we as citizens have been forced to wake up to the realization that there are far too many politicians who put themselves above the public interest, who take care of themselves before considering the millions of people they were elected to represent. We deserve a government that looks after us, which is why Darkenu took to the streets with those tens of thousands of outraged Israelis under the slogan “Serve the Public Already!”
As momentum built following the first protest two weeks ago, our own survey found that when asked why they didn’t plan on participating in the protests, 30-40% of respondents said that location was the issue. Tel Avivians aren’t the only ones who suffer when the government fails us—if anything it is people in the periphery who feel the adverse effects of corruption the hardest. And on a Saturday night, with work the next morning, not everyone is able to travel all the way to Tel Aviv. But that doesn’t mean that those Israelis don’t deserve to have their voices heard, which is why we decided to support and in some cases organize the holding of small demonstrations across the country, in Jerusalem, Haifa, Modi’in, Kfar-Saba, Netania and Rishon LeZion.
As Israelis, we have our fair share of opinions, but this is an issue upon which we can all agree: corruption is unacceptable. Government officials work for us, the people of Israel. Their authority stems from us, the citizens. We have entrusted them with the power to govern, and they in turn have take upon themselves the responsibility to govern in a way that adheres to our values and that advances our common interests as a nation. When they break that trust, when any civil servant uses their office to advance their own personal agenda or interest, they must be challenged by the public—and by their colleagues.
This is an issue that is so much larger than party politics: this goes to the very core of our democratic system. The public must be able to trust their elected leaders to act with integrity. Leaders of every party, on every level, must make it a top priority to clean up their houses and ensure that every man and woman on their electoral lists and holding elected office in their party’s name is worthy of the immense privilege and honor of representing this incredible nation and our unrivaled citizenry. We deserve to be proud of our government—that is something every Israeli can agree upon. And if our representatives need to be reminded of this fact, then we will take to the streets next weekend and the weekend after that. We will continue to raise up our voices for as long as it takes to be heard.
As Saturday night wore on, as my phone lit up with photos from Darkenu members participating in demonstrations across the country, I felt something powerful, something exciting. I saw our movement’s core principles come to life. Gone are the days when the moderate majority of Israelis are content to remain silent. We are not going to sit around waiting for change to come; we will bring it ourselves.