Israeli Zionist Educator Calls for Diaspora Support for Protesters

Categories: Israel
By Gilad Perry

I am writing this personal letter turning to every Jew in the world and all those who find importance in the State of Israel and its future, in order to bring to your attention the fact that we, in Israel, currently find ourselves in an historical moment wherein personal and spiritual support is needed now more than ever before.

My name is Gilad, I have been an educator and guide for at risk youth for 13 years, I am 33 years old, father to a new-born baby girl, I live in a small Educators Kibbutz in the Galilee – Kibbutz Eshbal – and I am a member of Dror Israel, a movement of educators. Like most other people in Israel from my generation, I love this country and I love this nation. I do miluim (military reserve duty), I run educational projects for at risk youth in the movement, and continue to do all that I can to make my life and the society around me better, more secure, and more meaningful. I define myself as a genuine Zionist.

The State of Israel is a “miracle,” a social and national phenomenon unlike anything the world has seen before. The Jewish people, who, through all the generations, obligated themselves to a strict moral code of social solidarity, have brought about the establishment of an exceptional state; a state which is based on the essential Jewish values that aided our survival for two thousand years – “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world).

I am writing to you because something has changed in the State of Israel. And I am not speaking about the “conflict”. I am speaking of the rift that has broken down the solidarity of Israel and compromised our ability to survive as a small country in the Middle East. I am speaking of the fact that of the participating countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), Israel has the most crowded hospitals, the most crowded classrooms, and the highest level of poverty.  Violence is on the rise and the periphery is collapsing.  This is not the state that Herzl envisioned. It is not Jewish, nor Zionist, nor democratic.

Recently, the cost of living in Israel has become so high that the middle class, who maintains this country, has been almost entirely eroded. The situation is so extreme that it is difficult to supply the most basic necessities, such as – housing, health, education, food, work, and environment. For the sake of comparison – an Israeli earning an average wage must work for 132 months in order to purchase an average apartment, where as an average American would have to work for only 60 months’ pay. A container of cottage cheese in Israel costs 1.6 times the amount that it costs in England, and baby formula costs 2.5 times the amount that it costs in the U.S.  This situation is similar with other food products, with gas prices, education, and more. All of this is despite the fact that the average Israeli works more hours than the average citizens of almost all of the other OECD countries. The average Israeli retires at an older age and receives lower wages than most of other OECD countries (3 times less than the average Australian and half of the wage of the average American).

All of this is taking place despite the fact that Israel’s economic growth is amongst the highest in the world. This can be explained by the following statistic: Israel ranks fourth amongst western countries in terms of inequality in wealth distribution (GINI Index) – the economic growth is not trickling down.

Over the last two weeks, I am excited to say that mass amounts of people – young and old – from every point on the political spectrum, unexpectedly decided to go out into the streets to demand that our country be returned to us.

Hundreds of thousands (!) are taking to the streets as a part of a non-violent struggle to voice their distress.

This is not a political struggle. It is not a struggle against this government or any other. In fact, each of the last several governments has taken us in the same direction. This is an Israeli struggle; a Jewish struggle. The struggle is made up of my partners in the Dror Israel Movement, the students, the Histadrut (Labor Federation), the doctors, the teachers, the social workers, and many additional organizations, but it is primarily a spontaneous struggle of middle class working people. At the head of this effort are the young people whom have created and are living in ‘tent cities’ in the streets of Israel. The Israeli people have never seen such a wide consensus towards a just path (87% fully support the struggle and its goals).

I am turning to you because your voice must also be heard. The character of this unique state – the state for all of the Jewish people – will be determined by your influence. The process that is taking place here – including the sale of Jewish national lands to private citizens – is also dangerous for Diaspora Jews. We are in need of wholehearted support from every Jew around the world in order to obtain our simple demands: housing, health, education, food, work, environment for every citizen of the State of Israel. Essentially, this is a call for Jewish solidarity. Shevet achim gam yachad (brothers sitting together in unity).

The struggle of the citizens of Israel is primarily a general struggle that demands a change to the character of society, but there are also specific demands that this effort wishes to achieve – read them here. All of these demands are based on the rights of all citizens outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence as well as the spirit of the vision of Theodore Herzl.

These are the things that I would want to be established as the culture of the only Jewish State in the world, for my daughter who will grow up in this country, and for her entire generation. I fear that if we do not pull things together today, then our tomorrow will be sad and bitter.

I would like to finish this letter with a quote from Ze’ev Jabotinsky writing about his vision for Israeli society:
“I imagine what we refer to as ‘elementary needs’ as the things that today one must fight for and beg salary for and scream out for. This includes five things: food, home, clothes, the ability to give his children education and the ability to get medical treatment when he is ill.”

(Ze’ev Jabotinsky)

“I imagine what we refer to as ‘elementary needs’ as the things that today one must fight for and beg salary for and scream out for. This includes five things: food, home, clothes, the ability to give his children education and the ability to get medical treatment when he is ill.”

(Ze’ev Jabotinsky)

About Gilad Perry

Gilad Perry lives in Kibbutz Eshbal in the Galilee. He run educational projects for at risk youth and is a member of Dror Israel, a movement of educators
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