The Social Protest Movement in Israel

Shirley here.

As much of the city was gathering chilled beverages and saucing up their Buffalo wings, we gathered in the Gonda theater following the 3pm showing of BOGED for a final Voices from a Changing Middle East panel discussion.

The talk, titled: The Social Protest Movement in Israel and the Regional Earthquake, brought together

  • Moderator Stephen Stern, Theater J Council
  • Anton Goodman, Jewish Agency Israel Engager Shaliach to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
  • Allison T. Hoffman, Senior Writer, Tablet Magazine
  • Yoram Peri, Abraham S. and Jack Kay Chair in Israel Studies Director of The Joseph B. and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies University of Maryland, College Park


The conversation vacillated between reflections on the play itself; talk of Boaz Gaon’s prominent role in the J14 Social Protest movements that happened in Israel during the summer of 2011; and the results and ramifications of the recent elections in Israel.

The social protest movement was an “uncorking of…frustration and anger…and also art in a certain way” Allison Hoffman observed. Because so much of the protest focused on domestic issues within Israel, this left American Jews wondering “is this our fight?”

Yoram Peri told us about a letter her wrote to Boaz (his former student) in March 2011. He expressed an appreciation for what Gaon’s generation was doing “Don’t wait for people of my generation” he translated from the original Hebrew in his letter, “change in Israel won’t come from my generation…revolutions are led by the young!” He lamented the need of his generation to “be cautious, take very small steps”.

And so—a record number forty-eight new members were elected to the Knesset, many of them coming out of the social protest movement. And yet—Peri expressed his frustration with this younger generation’s complete avoidance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue which—in his view—will bubble underneath everything else until it is solved.

Anton reflected that the energy of the play mirrored the energy of the protests for him–that of “An Israeli society wanting to be better and wanting to do the right thing”

The question in both the play, and in real life is–what happens when there are many different views on what actually is “the right thing”? What if one person’s hero is another’s enemy of the state? Indeed, what then?