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.