At a Jerusalem parlour meeting

The Green Movement/Meimad held a parlour meeting last night in Jerusalem’s Baka neighbourhood, and this green reporter was there to gauge the temperature of the audience. First up, speaking to a crowded room, Alon Tal gave a rousing oration suggesting Israeli society had lost its way. “We in this new party recognise it’s time to take the issues seriously,” Tal said. “There are 3 crises going on concomitantly here – environmental, social and political. There is a crisis within Israeli democracy – society is turned off. We need to make a seismic shift in the priorities of Israeli society!” Professor Tal continued in this vein, peppering his speech with facts about the poor state of the environment here, including a bleak list of specific sites around the country that are experiencing an “ecological disaster”, as he described it. He made several references to the issue of air pollution, and later on made a commitment on behalf of the party that if they get into the coalition following the upcoming elections (baruch hashem!) they will insist on a 15% reduction in air pollution across the country.

Gershon Baskin, also on the party list and well known locally and Internationally for his efforts to promote peace through the NGO IPCRI, followed Alon with an equally passionate evocation of a more compassionate society here in Israel, a society “that is engaged and active”. “How come we pollute this land so much?” he spoke from the heart, going on to tell of driving north on road 6 this week, and discovering that every wadi/river valley passed on the journey stank from the acrid odour of pollution.

Later in the evening, these 2 dynamic speakers were followed by Yerushalmim party leader and new member of the Jerusalem city council Rachel Azaria, who noted that she had given a talk in this very house before the municipal elections, and had come from nowhere in the polls to gaining 8% of the vote and a seat in Nir Barkat’s council. She urged us to get behind Tal and Baskin and the other fine candidates from Green Movement-Meimad, and get them into the Knesset, and for each and every citizen to rise from frustration and get into the political world to make some change, as she has.

But it was the effect upon the Anglo audience that I wanted to gauge, and from the depth and breath of the questions, I could tell how aware and switched on to the social and political machinations of society this audience were. “Why do we need several green parties?” asked Alexandra Benjamin, an educator, originally from Britain. “Can you succeed on a bigger scale? What is your appeal to the common weal?” was another articulate question. “What is your approach to the crisis of education here?” asked one concerned teacher. “Can an Israeli green party make good links with international green parties that seem to be anti-Israel?”, “How would you make sustainable energy affordable?”, and “What’s your position on the recent war in Gaza?” were other questions from the audience. Tal and Baskin dealt with them one by one, providing detailed responses where necessary – particularly on the issues of renewable energy, and education (both candidates having considerable experience in education). Tal took pains to say that the party had supported the offensive against Gaza, and that the questioner might not fully agree with their position. Both speakers made light of our entrenched Anglo political positions of being on either the left, or the right, and that this new party can and does appeal across the board – with the potential to pull in Likudniks and supporters of the other, ailing green party.

From what I saw and felt around me, Tal and Baskin have the energy, dynamism and experience to engage an audience, and the integrity to put forward radical new proposals for a green and engaged society. It is up to this community, our friends and neighbours, Jews and non-Jews alike, to engage in these crucial issues that effect us on every level – political, social, environmental – and get behind a new party that can effect the change this country needs so much. Personally speaking, it’s exciting to be in at the birth of something new….I urge every reader to get involved in whatever way they feel moved to.

5 responses to “At a Jerusalem parlour meeting

  1. Well written, James! I was unfortunately unable to attend, but I really appreciate the round-up of questions and your analysis of the answers. I’m particularly impressed that Rahel was brought in to speak, and that the recent success of Yerushalmim was highlighted to show that this new party, too, has a serious chance of affecting change, if we get out the vote!

  2. When I heard him in Modiin, I was very impressed by Rabbi Melchior of Meimad, who has a wide vision of the needs of Israel and a very humanistic approach. I have also noticed his social consciousness in his past work in the K’nesset. However, it seems the party has very little chance of receiving enough votes to be represented. And now, I could not find its platform. What do you think of the party’s chances?

  3. As the writer of the above article, I steer Rachel to the links on this blog and to the party’s official site, where the platform is written in detail (in hebrew).

    I am optimistic that the party will get 2/3 members into the Knesset, and at the parlour meeting described above, Alon Tal spoke realistically about how he thought the party would do, and under what conditions they would serve in any potential coalition.
    I think it is important to remember, as I said in the last paragraph, that here is the chance to be in at the birth of something new. To use a hackneyed phrase, this party ain’t just for christmas – I think they will grow, have a lot of impact socially, politically and environmentally, and be around for a long time yet. If I was a betting man I’d put money on it…..

  4. Hi Rachel. I concur with James. And check out the most recent post of the mock elections in the universities and high schools. In the past, high school elections have actually been fairly good indicators of the national results (although I wouldn’t bet on 21% of the vote, I’m confident about passing the minimum threshold).

  5. The Green Movement-Meimad’s figures show that they already have enough support to cross the threshold and enter Knesset and the momentum hasn’t even reached its peak (there’s 10 days to go…)!
    In my opinion, it’s worth finally investing your vote in a party which truly represents what you believe in and want…

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