Privatization? Re-Vo-Lu-Tion!

Gershom Gorenberg

The dead have come to life.

I saw them marching tonight through Jerusalem, jumping, swaying, pounding pots and water-cooler bottles as drums, the Israelis in their twenties who’d been written off in a thousand political obituaries as dead of terminal apathy, sweating in the absurd heat close to midnight, roaring so deep you could hear their throats tearing in anger and in joy at being angry together and being alive again.

'People before Profits'
‘People before Profits’ (Gershom Gorenberg)

They came flooding down from Zion Square through Independence Park and up Agron Street to the square outside of one of Netanyahu’s three homes, and they sang an old kindergarten song about “my hat has three corners” rewritten as “my Bibi owns three houses,” and they overflowed up onto the walls and fences past the sidewalks and they danced with mad happiness at seeing each other.

They chanted “The people want social justice!” and “What’s the answer to privatization? Re-Vo-Lu-Tion!” and waved flags, both blue-and-white and red. They cheered for the Arab medical student telling the government it has to pay for health care, and for the teacher decrying the pure insult of treating teachers as temp workers, and for the rabbi quoting Isaiah.

Rock singer Kobi Oz got on the stage with his guitar and roared into the mike the blessing praising God “Who has kept us alive to this moment!” Someone had a sign saying, “I’d burn a tire, but I can’t afford one.” An eight-month pregnant woman leaned back against her partner for support. A dark-eyed woman climbed onto a man’s shoulders and danced to the chants. A little girl held up a sign saying, “People before profits.” The crowd chanted, time and again, “Revolution!”

There were over 10,000 people in Jerusalem, but that was only the local Jerusalem crowd, because the marches took place in 11 cities, Jewish and Arab. Local news reports list said the national total hit 150,000. For those reading this from abroad, I note that this number is equivalent to six million people marching in America.

For those reading from abroad, I also note that so far, foreign editors have completely missed what’s happening here, because the stories they expect from Israel are about war and terror and peace talks, so they haven’t gotten their minds around two weeks of protests that just keep getting bigger, Israelis inspired by Egypt, demanding what was once the basic minimum here before the poison of privatization arrived: free education, free health care, affordable apartments.

Bibi of the Three Houses gets it even less than the foreign editors do. News reports tonight say that his new revolutionary social plan is to consider… lowering taxes! He wants to lower indirect taxes on gasoline, as if saving a few shekels on gas will solve the problem of young parents who can’t afford an apartment or for supposedly public health care or supposedly state-provided education.

The dead have risen, and want their country back. Jerusalem, Saturday night, July 30 (Gershom Gorenberg)
The dead have risen, and want their country back. Jerusalem, Saturday night, July 30 (Gershom Gorenberg)

Someone please give this man political asylum in Idaho, where he can undoubtedly get elected to a spare congressional seat.

I don’t know if this will last. I don’t know if people who haven’t debated economic policy in a biblical 40 years will hold out for real change, which will require a change in basic orientation not to mention canceling the tax cuts for the rich that Bibi began implementing back in 2003. I know that two weeks ago no one imagined the clinically dead Israeli public coming to life and demanding social justice, a welfare state, a revolution.

2 thoughts on “Privatization? Re-Vo-Lu-Tion!”

  1. Gershom,

    It was great to be so outnumbered by so many young people at a demo for a change, especially when accompanied by two sons and a son-in-law. The chanting “rev-ol-ution” seemed surrealistic to me last night, but the exhilaration and empowerment of those young people is not going away so fast. “The times they are a-changing!”

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