Dear Friends of Israel
Just as in the spring, when large masses in several Arabian countries staged surprising protests against their rulers and their unrealistic styles of ruling, an unexpected “summer” of protests has broken out in Israel against social injustice. The protesters, composed mainly of students and other young people, demand social justice. As in Egypt, they have gathered at central squares in various cities and pitched permanent "protest camps" of tents.
In recent years, statistics show that the gap is growing in Israel between the wealthy and those who have nothing. When Israel joined the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in the not-too-distant past, the tables published by the OECD showed clearly that Israel has a low standard in the social field - even though the economy is doing well in general and unemployment is low. There is a fairly large number of those who earn very little however, ... and it keeps getting larger.
The protesters accuse the government, in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of pursuing policies that serve only the rich. Netanyahu is in fact proud of his considerable contributions to a free market economy in Israel. This includes the privatization of many public services. The protesters rightly complain that this policy only helps the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. Privatization isn’t a panacea for the problems, it simply shirks the responsibility.
The greatest of their demands is the construction of public social housing, to make it possible for the socially disadvantaged to buy an apartment at an affordable price. Thus one of the larger protest rallies took place in front of the office building of "Amidar," the National Association for Residential Construction.
The protesters accuse this government institution of behaving like a profit-driven company, rather than fulfilling the mission for which it was founded: Creating living space for the needy and socially disadvantaged.
Furthermore, they accuse the government of pursuing policies that favor the rich. Land that belongs to the state, and therefore the general public, winds up in the hands of speculators who drive up the prices and are only interested in the construction of luxury apartments, which yield higher profits. The protesters demand an end to such development, which they are convinced has made easy money for speculators at the expense of the public.
It’s a fact that throughout the country, many residential building projects involving luxury homes can be seen, in which the housing is too expensive for common people and is often being purchased by foreign Jews as an investment.
In addition, the cost of living is continuously rising. One statistic has shown that many areas of Israel are now more expensive than some European Union countries. Moreover, the tax burden is very high. Although the government guarantees 12 years of free education, school supplies and school trips must be paid by the parents. That is something that has become an ever greater financial burden for many parents, a burden that is simply too great for some to bear.
All indications are that the protests will not simply fade away unless the government takes serious steps to solve the problems.
All this comes at a time in which similar economic and financial difficulties in America and Europe are also becoming more apparent.
The demand for public and social justice is certainly a serious and legitimate demand. Many are actually quite proud that Israeli society is still capable of such expressions of protest.
Referring to justice, the Prophet Isaiah writes, “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:27).
In Him who loves justice,