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March 23, 2011 11:36 am

The Power That Is in Your Hands

avatar by Dovid Efune

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Photo: Tom Page

This past week I listened to two very prominent Israeli politicians giving intimate off the record briefings to influential Jewish audiences in New York. Hearing firsthand insider accounts confirmed what most already feared, that the challenges that Israel faces today are unprecedented.

Whilst the politics of one leaned toward the right, and the other to the left, they were unanimous that US leadership and the governments of most Western countries are heading in a very dangerous direction with their current approach to Middle Eastern affairs. Often concrete realities are ignored in pursuit of current political agendas.

The names of these politicians are irrelevant as I wish to focus on the topic of activism.

An off the record briefing is insightful, as it usually provides one with a glimpse into the often gaping chasm between the formal positions of a public official, and what they really think is going on.

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In Israel the limitations of political leaders are magnified significantly because of the fragmented nature of most governing coalitions. Besides the fact that individual politicians often make public statements that are at odds with official government policies, because of the multitude of positions represented in the government, it is difficult to reach consensus on pressing and vital issues.

Of course as a true representative system, many voices within Israeli society are represented even within the government, but the ability of leaders to lead is greatly limited.

Often elected officials who came to office by virtue of their ideals get trapped by a multitude of considerations, and are therefore unable to implement or follow through with their convictions. Sometimes they are even unable to publically express their true personal positions.

The implications for Israelis and those who are active on behalf of Israel are far reaching, especially when seeking to chart a path for the future. It is crucial that the public recognizes the immense limitations of political leaders to implement meaningful change and even to address serious challenges in a courageous, visionary and comprehensive fashion.

People often look toward their leaders to solve their problems because they assume that ‘he must know what he is doing.’ The reality is that there is more power in the hands of the individual than many would like to believe.

As private citizens, people are for the most part unrestricted and unburdened, unbound by the demand for political correctness, able to say what they want when they want, and how they want. There is also the opportunity to form a public forum or grassroots organization that will amplify that message. For a politician, their message is their livelihood; for a private individual, their message is their ideals.

Of course many will ask what it takes for one with no platform or public position to be able to influence the future, especially in a country like Israel where there are notoriously more opinions than people. The answer is simple: it takes vision and courage.

Vision allows people and even small groups to stay focused, moving swiftly towards their goals while others are largely stagnant. Courage, in the words of Winston Churchill, “is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

History has shown that that the destiny of society was changed by ordinary private citizens both for good and for the bad. The message is simple; the future of Israel is in the hands of the individual. If change is what you seek, it begins with you.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

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