It is indeed true that it’s easy to understand the decision of some of Israel’s medical residents not to report to work without waiting for a Labor Court decision on the matter.
It’s easy to understand them, it’s easy to agree with them, and it’s easy to support them. However, we can mark their decision as a milestone and say that, not in their interest, the doctors of tomorrow are turning into yesterday’s teachers.
The medical residents are shifting, slowly but surely, into the niche that was recently vacated after very long years where it was the exclusive prerogative of high school teachers. The people whose demands were always just – their salaries were insulting and their working conditions were unacceptable – but whose conduct was intolerable. Ever September they would turn the beginning of the school year into a circus with their strike threats.
The medical residents’ demands are indeed very just. They are right to ask to be freed from the demand for a nine-year contract. This happens nowhere else in the Israeli economy and there is no reason to apply this condition to them. They are also right to demand fair wages for a difficult, exacting job. Their anger is also justified. We can’t have a situation where the prime minister decided to meet them only after 60 days.
And still, Israel’s public discourse makes a distinction between the strike of truck drivers and the strike of teachers, and between the strike of postal workers and the strike of doctors. Because the public, just like every single doctor, knows that some lines must not be crossed and that crossing them means anarchy.
Indeed, it is very difficult, not to say impossible, to contend with anarchy.
This is an elusive moment that is not readily evident, certainly not in real time. However, such moment is happening now, and we must listen closely to hear it – a dim roar, like a giant, distant warship that is starting to turn around. It takes time, but once it arrives it become very difficult to revert the situation to the previous state.
The medical residents’ demands must be met, even if this is done with additions or small changes, yet the residents must not go all the way. As opposed to what a famous Israeli song says, the end is far from being a small place full of wildflowers.