…… and a different kind of article. I’m on a bit of a detox from guys in general at the moment. OK, that’s obvioulsy not true there is much more of my usual type of jargon on it’s way in the next few days… but for now, something else….
Israel today is very different to the Israel I grew up in. Late 80’s Tel Aviv still held some of the utopian values of the sixties and seventies, a sense of community and a modest comfort in the suburbs of the low middle class. We played in the streets among stray cats, climbing olive trees and singing songs of a free Israel where everyone was equal, a prosperous land of milk and honey where there was always enough to go around. Back in the mid 80’s the commune style Kibbutzim still spread a sense of leftism through the mostly poor but educated community of immigrants. The first generation in Israel knew well the stories of how their parents left with little but the clothes on their back, building themselves from nothing, and passing onto their children the message that they must work hard, work together and be grateful for what they have. It was this rose tinted image of my homeland that I brought with me when I moved to the UK seventeen years ago.
How things have changed. Returning back after six years away, I saw that the Israeli children had grown fat and rude. The skyscrapers had multiplied and grown. No one played in the streets anymore, gone were the tatty leather sandals and khaki shorts. The culture, much like the politics has become right wing, materialistic and unbearable. Everyone is now upper middle class, everyone a businessman and for the menial work, there are the others.
Malaysian girls walk arm in arm with the elderly; the ones who built the country. The carers push them in wheelchairs while talking on their mobiles in a language they cannot understand.
Somalian labourers live twelve to a flat in the poor deserted area next to the old central station in Tel Aviv. A shanty town of corrugated iron and old deserted buildings.
“Don’t get out here,” the cab driver warned me. “They are thieves and rapists”
The dark streets did seems ominous, prostitutes on the corners, gaggles of men standing, talking. They cannot afford to go anywhere, not in this city. I climbed out the car guiltily, giving the driver a 50 Shekel note. It was what one of these men would make in a week.
But within this forgotten town- within- a- city there grows a new kind of revolution. A community of artists, bars with mismatched chairs and underground taverns where you can smoke freely. Here everyone is an artist, a writer or a film director. Within this new Tel Aviv there are whispers of change and in the news we see the start of a social revolution.
On July 15th people took to the streets over Palestine, calling for freedom to establish their state.
July 20th in there was a national protest over the price of cottage cheese which led to the price being reduced
A few days later the seed of revolution spread to the wealthy community of Rothchild avenue, who set up tents in the street in protest over the cost of living. Indeed, life in Tel Aviv today is a far cry from the days when the government subsidised living for the elderly and students. There are now similar tent cities in over 40 towns including Arab-Israeli towns, who set up the tents in a nod of camaraderie to their Jewish neighbours
On August 4th, a group of protesters in New York took their tents to Washington. Their sign reads; “stop the machine”.
“Is there any difference,” said one protester, “between what’s going on in Israel and what’s going on here?” Joining the cause of a veteran hippy protester outside the doors of the Whitehouse, the Israelis set up camp. “Even the police here support us.” He says, swishing his hair and I wonder if the stunt is less about politics and more about five minutes of infamy.
Whilst we should probably take the Washington tent protest with a pinch of salt, it nevertheless underlines a change in attitude amongst Israelis and signifies so much more than a protest over rent. The tent is a sign of a new Israel, a sign that a new generation of voters has arrived, and a breath of fresh air from the stagnant commercialism of the 90’s. It is a generation that does not want to go to the army, one that is bored of war and has tired of the finger pointing.
Perhaps Israel has finally found its voice and is ready to speak up against a government that doesn’t represent its socialist roots and perhaps it is up to this vanguard of Ray-Ban wearing intellectuals to put an end to a madness that has gone on too long.