Over 150,000 people gathered yesterday in Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Winograd interim report, which revealed that Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former chief of General Staff Dan Halutz, were to blame for last year’s Lebanon War, provoked deep anger amongst Israelis. Truth be told, I was not surprised at all by the report – what surprised me more that there was any reaction at all from a nation who have become increasingly apathetic and self-destructive over recent decades.
When we voted for Kadima, could we put our hands to our hearts, and honestly say that we weren’t aware of the type of man that Olmert was? We all knew that he was a liar, cheat, and fraud, who cared not one whit for this country, and for the Zionistic ideals upon which it was founded. Did we honestly expect Olmert to lead us nobly and courageously through war, and protect our country? I think not. So why the outrage now? Too little, too late. We had our chance. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted this outcome. But we as a collective nation let it happen, and the result is blood on our hands from lives that have been tragically wasted.
Why did the Israelis let this happen? Because they are tired, fed up, and self-centered. And just like the case in a drowning marriage, they forgot what it was that they were fighting for. I don’t know if I can say with any certainty that most Israelis dream of leaving this country, and feel little or no connection with the land of Israel and the notion of a homeland for the Jews, but in the majority of encounters that I have had with Israelis since I made Aliyah in 1998, they express deep surprise that I choose to live in this country. “Why are you here? If only I had a passport and the option, I would leave.” The sad reality is that Zionism has become a dirty word that barely leaves the mouths of our politicians, let alone youth. We have forgotten who we are, and what we stand for. And like the abused wife syndrome, we feel that if we only keep quiet, and stay in the background, and don’t antagonize the Arabs or the international world, people will leave us alone. Well, it hasn’t worked.
In recent years, studies have indicated an increase in obesity in Israel, but we are not just suffering from excess physical weight. We have become flabby as a nation and have lost our resolve, our backbone, that enabled us to triumph in other wars in the past. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people showed up yesterday for the demonstration does give me a glimmer of hope. Even if the demonstration will be largely ineffective in accomplishing its primary goal – to oust Olmert from the government – it indicates that people are starting to wake up, and come out of their coma of indifference. Pain, anger, outrage, those are emotions that indicate humanity and life, and ultimately hope. I really don’t know how we are going to be able to extricate ourselves from this almighty mess, but I do know that the first step is to actually feel, to react, to shout out, to say no more. Indifference and selfishness are the destructive traits that threaten to kill us as a nation.