The upcoming elections bring with them a real opportunity for change in social and economic policy in Israel.
As a grassroots organization, every day we encounter over-crowded classrooms, a severe crisis in Israel’s health services and devalued wages. These are all results of the power relations between competing sets of ideas and the social and political organizations behind them. Therefore, We attribute the utmost importance to voting and taking an active role in these elections in an attempt to put social and economic issues at the heart of Israel’s public discourse.
But be assured- the struggle for social Justice is not one that ends on March 17th – election day. This struggle needs to be waged wisely and with a long term plan in mind. After many years during which the social discourse was marginalized and neo-liberal ideology ruled supreme as the only viable policy, we are witnessing real change. Increasing public criticism at the unholy coupling of politics and big money; winning campaigns against the privatization of national health services, for raising the minimum wage and against the monopoly over Israel’s national gas reserves; initiatives like the attempt to form Israel’s first cooperatively owned bank; and Over 100,000 workers who have unionized since 2011 and changed the labor market.
As a school for social change established in 2004, a time of dramatic cuts in social services and public indifference, we find inspiration and hope in wake of these recent changes, which reaffirm our belief in hard work. But building a progressive welfare state will not happen overnight in the course of a single election or even two. Building a social movement that works to promote equality and social justice within local communities, in the education system, in the labor market and in both local and national politics, with a solid ideological foundation, practical policy solutions, widespread support and cadres of dedicated activists, is the only way to make substantial progress.
In contrast to the past, we can say with pride that this movement exists in Israel and that it already making many significant strides. Still, much work remains to be done, to spread progressive values and people focused ideas and practices among local communities, students, youth and and workers across the country.
These elections provide the perfect opportunity to re-engage in political involvement and to achieve policy change. But if we truly want to implement a long term strategy, we must remember that an effective political force whose goal is promoting social change can only grow if large portions of the Israeli public demand it. Therefore, the important work is the one done in between elections, through the creation of local groups together for change all year round.
In the days that remain until we go to the ballots, we call on our partners and graduates to take an active part in this election cycle; and the day after the vote, regardless of the results, to continue working for hearts and minds as well as practical change in Israeli society. We at the SEA are here for the long run.