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Yair Lapid
Photo: Yoni Hamenachem
The people of yesterday
Op-ed: Israel’s old-timers having trouble understanding protest led by Facebook generation

Part 1 of article

 

“They’re leftist,” say the people of yesterday. “Don’t you get it?! They’re leftist, we’re telling you! We checked it, we exposed their past, we found every protest they ever attended, every organization they once belonged to, and every petition they ever signed; how can you not get that they’re leftist? Can’t you see it? Isn’t it clear?

 

My goodness, this is so boring.

 

Yes, some of the protestors in the boulevard are part of the Left. What does that have to do with the housing question? With the state of the middle class? With doctors’ salaries? With the price of cottage cheese? (And please allow me to add the issues of tomorrow to the list: The salaries of teachers and police officers, and then the equality in bearing the national burden.)

 

The “leftist argument” is just as foolish as the claim that “this is not really a protest” just because it doesn’t look like a protest that the people of yesterday are used to. It’s not aired on a black-and-white TV, nobody is burning police cruisers in Haifa’s Wadi Salib neighborhood, and Moti Ashkenazi is not on a hunger strike as happened after the Yom Kippur War. Yes, the people on Rothschild Boulevard sometimes eat sushi and then smoke a nargile, right in the middle of the tent city. Who are you to tell them what their protest should look like?

 

However, the people of yesterday cannot do it any other way. They need their yesterday. They need everything to be organized in the old “Left” and “Right” boxes, otherwise they will have to reorganize their world, and who has the energy for it in this heat?

 

Maybe this is why they did everything to ignore Robert, the high-tech VP I interviewed on Rothschild Boulevard after a painful open letter he wrote the prime minister went viral all over the Internet.

 

“If even I struggle to make ends meet,” he wrote, “counting the tomatoes at the supermarket, glancing with concern at the water bills, and an apartment in a good location is a distant dream for me – then there must be a real problem here.”

 

“Oh well,” I told him. “That’s how leftists write. “I voted for Bibi,” he said. “It’s irrelevant.”

 

Yet they ignored him, because in an irrelevant world, the people of yesterday get lost. They need everything to be related and relevant: The old schemes, the old divisions, and their old habits. It’s hard to blame them in fact; old habits die hard.

 

Because of that, by the way, online news sites are designed exactly like the newspapers they made obsolete; because of that, the letters on our computer keyboard are arranged the same way as on the old typewriters; because of that, Microsoft’s e-mail icon is an envelope (the exact envelope that e-mail made obsolete) and YouTube’s logo is an outdated television screen that looks nothing like modern-day plasma screens – we do everything we can to make it easier for the people of yesterday get accustomed to the new world.

 

But now we get the sour feeling that it’s a needless effort, because they cannot do it. Just like the classic argument about the army, which is always prepared for the previous war, they are willing to engage in the struggle on condition that it will be done on their own terms, in their own court, according to their own irrelevant rules.

 

Yet it’s not going to happen.

 

Part 2 of article to be published Saturday

 

 

 

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