I want to write more about being a so-called settler, living in the so-called settlements, and being blamed for all the ills of this country by those who want an easy target. A commentator complained that he was funding “my” occupation and yet it is entirely likely that the political party of HIS choice is the one who took Israel to war and gained the areas he dubs “occupied” territory. It is even more likely that it is the taxes I have paid over the last two decades that has done more to fund where he lives, than the meager taxes he has paid over the last few years has done anything for my city.
A look at his public history shows he came to Israel just under a decade after I did, served in the army for 2-3 years, left the country for more than 5 years, and recently returned. By contrast, I have been living in this country and paying taxes for just over 19 years. Who is paying for whom? That’s what I wanted to write about – and will some day soon, but for now, I want to write about something else because the message I heard last night is much more the message of Israel (and the settlers) than most would imagine.
I heard the lions roar last night – in this case, the lions were Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel, candidates running for the Knesset as part of the Bayit HaYehudi party. They have a unique commodity as candidates – they want to deliver their message more than they want to be elected to the Knesset.
And their message is an image of an Israel that is unified and strong, tolerant and Jewish. They both served in the Israeli army – one Givati and one Golani. They joke between themselves, as brothers in arms and brothers in peace, but the message is clear – they want to serve a constituancy of Israel that serves this land.
They want to bring to Israel several valuable concepts that are, it seems, missing from today’s government (and lest you think I am only pointing the finger at today’s Likud government, I will tell you that Ari and Jeremy speak of concepts that were missing from EVERY Israeli government in the past – be it Labor, Likud, Kadima (especially Kadima), etc.
So, although I want this to be a blog about “a settler” – I will at times divert to the main point – which is that settlers are Israelis and Israelis are settlers – all of us, both. So, as a settler – as an Israeli – I support the concepts laid out last night by the lions of Judea, in their roar, is the makings of a better Israel.
They would bring us:
1. Accountability – that’s right. They would actually answer to the voters who elect them. What a concept. There can be no doubt that Ariel Sharon failed this, as did Tzipi Livni, and as Bibi Netanyahu fails this today. They will, they promise us, actually remember who put them in office and the values WE have.
2. Transparency – they plan to tell us, in a monthly report, what they have done, what they have not done. What they spoke of, what they intend. They will tell us where they travel, and why. And no, they don’t plan on driving those ridiculous cars that each cost the tax payer hundreds of thousands of shekels.
3. Accessibility – they gave me their phone number! Not just me, but everyone. You can call them, you can write to them. And they promise an answer within 2 weeks. Once a year when I was in college, I traveled down to Washington and met with my senators and congressman. I did. I drove down in a bus with hundreds of others and we had an appointment and we sat in a room and asked them to work on behalf of Soviet Jewry – and yes, we were allowed to ask about other things as well. We slept overnight on the floor of a synagogue so that we could start early the next morning. How close Jerusalem is for all of us – and how far the politicians have taken it from us.
4. Empowering the English speakers of this country – we come here and often get intimidated…or, we come here and think we should change everything. What I like about Ari and Jeremy is that they came here when they were young, served in the army. They speak Hebrew, understand the culture – and now, having learned Israel from the inside, they are ready to work to make things better from things they learned while they lived abroad.
It was a long meeting – I’ll write of it again, but the message was one that is part of what I want to express in this blog we are all Israelis. We live here and we love this land, our land. We all need to serve this land and the State we have created. There are labels we use – to get your attention, I can label myself as a settler. But if you listen, you will quickly understand that a label is something you stick on the outside – it is what is inside that counts.
If we are to have a government that meets the needs of the people – security, education, health, jobs, innovation and more – we need accountability, we need transparency, we need accessibility.
I left the meeting last night feeling empowered. I had heard the lions roar and more, they are inviting me along for the ride!