Stav Shaffir is the first social protest leader to enter Knesset races

In an email sent this morning to friends and campaign supporters, Stav Shaffir, one of the two highest profile young leaders of Israel’s social protests last summer, entered politics.

This is my first letter to you since embarking on a new path – as a candidate for the Labour Party’s list for the Knesset. This was not an easy decision to make. More than a year has passed since the social protest began, I continue to believe in our civic power, in our ability to affect the system through public pressure, education, and media. Today, everyone knows that we have already conquered the streets. But the most important decisions are made in the very place that my generation has deserted. I will not accept this fact any longer. The responsibility we took upon ourselves last summer must grow beyond the streets.
I am entering politics. I carry with me on this new path the stories, hopes and wishes of countless people I have met during this past year. My mission is to be a voice for those stories in the halls of the Knesset. This coming election is critical, It will determine where our country is headed – whether to the same policy that does not protect the public’s interests – or to politics that put the citizens’ social welfare and economic dignity as its top priority.
The Labour Party, headed by Shelly Yachimovich, is the political home in which tradition and history work alongside thousands of brave, young men and women who are fighting for this country’s future.
Friends, I cannot do this alone. If we work together, we can create a new, clean, healthy political culture.
As I start out on this new and special road, I ask for your help. There are a number of ways in which you can take part in my campaign, help me achieve a place in the Labour Party’s list, and send me to the Knesset in order to realize our common vision there.

On her campaign website, she addressed one of the tensions within the social protest leadership that has taken her and compatriot Daphne Leaf in separate directions, the decision to enter the political arena directly or work from non-partisan sidelines. She writes,

The protest is not over. It is alive and kicking. It is only the season of mass demonstrations that has ended. Now it is time to put our efforts into the political arena: the government, the Knesset, local and regional councils. Now is the time to translate the ideas, messages, the world view, and our ability as a people to unite as a political force. Now is the time to demand the return of what belongs to us. The enormous moral force of mass demonstrations is not enough. Although we conquered the public squares and the boulevards last summer, we have learned that the decisions that shape our society are not made there. They are made in the rooms and corridors of political power which my generation has shunned for too long. And the responsibility we took upon ourselves in that summer must move beyond the street. It is time to move from protest to political action.

On her decision to join the Labor Party, she writes,

Since Shelley Yachimovich was elected to lead the party, and even before the beginning of the social protests, the Labour Party has worked to advance an agenda of social and economic justice. It is committed to the social-democratic ideals in which I believe and which I view as the core values of the social protest movement.
The Labour Party is undergoing a renaissance. The founding generation has been joined by a young new generation that brings fresh blood and renewed energy, ready to take its place in realizing the historic vision and mission of the Labour Party. Over the last year, the party’s ranks have been swelled by idealistic, thoughtful young people who view the Labour Party as their political home.

Will Stav and other young leaders from the J14 movement win high placements on party rosters? Will that inspire young, disenchanted voters to support them at the ballot boxes come election day on January 22nd, 2013? Will the 450,000-strong social protests have anything to show in electoral politics afterwards?
Stay tuned to Jewschool, where we’ll follow Stav and her fellow young leaders as a new generation enters Israeli politics.

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