A National Turmoil, with a Sprinkle of Hope

Last Tuesday night, mere hours before his mandate was set to expire, Member of Knesset Yair Lapid (of “Yesh Atid”), informed the president of Israel that he had succeeded in forming a government. The announcement of a new leadership came after a long period of demonstrations, the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel that shut down the economy, and most recently, another war with Hamas.
When the riots and missiles began, we at the Heschel Center were in the midst of our current course offerings and recruitment for upcoming classes. The overarching sentiment throughout the country was one of resignation and exhaustion. Just a few weeks earlier we had felt as if we were returning to a routine of sorts, after a year and a half of living with the coronavirus. As if we had collectively weathered the storm and emerged stronger. Yet to our dismay, the reality on the ground gave way to a crisis that stems, among other things, from having neglected to systemically address a vicious and lingering issue – our conflict with the Palestinians.Our circles uphold the belief that it’s not possible to promote a sustainable society without genuine civic equality. Sustainability is no less an environmental vision than a social and democratic one, and it’s impossible to promote a sustainable society without full cooperation and buy-in towards a shared vision and future. We require full participation, solidarity, and trust, as the keys to justice and social sustainability.

On the other hand, we see each crisis as an opportunity to improve as a society. In recent weeks, many businesses have issued public statements that they love and are proud of their Arab employees. Many of Israel’s largest firms issued strong calls for unity through public campaigns, despite some risk that this might endanger some of their revenue streams (such as Strauss, Bank Hapoalim, Fox, Tnuva, Shufersal, and more). Additionally, members of the health care system in which Arabs and Jews work side by side to treat patients regardless of religion, race, or gender, sent a strong, unequivical message: that we must bring an end to the violence, and that we are all the same on the inside.

If we succeed in learning, and are prepared to make genuine changes to right wrongs, we have a chance to create a sustainable plan that will lead to socio-economic and environmental prosperity. The new government that is set to lead our nation fills us with hope. The four government ministries we wish to harness for the issues we seek to promote will likely be held by women who have upheld their commitment to sustainability: namely those of the environment, energy, economy, and transportation. The Ministry of Health will even be held by a member of Knesset who is a graduate of the Heschel Center’s fellowship program. We are working to ensure that we increase our degree of government cooperation, so as to receive more attention from the decision makers at the political level. Could the Biden Administration inspire Israel’s “change government”? We believe that it will – we are changing along with the spirit of the times, and there’s not only an opportunity for inspiration, but also for genuine aid in working toward the paths we seek to promote – from tackling the climate crisis to achieving civic equality. Needless to say, we’re not waiting to find out. We’re back at work.

Tamara, Rony and the Heschel Center Team