|March of silence (photo by H. Schenker)|
For five encouraging and enchanting weeks, the mass summer tent protest movement for social justice has dominated the Israeli headlines — until Thursday, August 19th, when an extremist group in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees, decided to launch an attack on the southern border, killing eight Israelis. The attack was a challenge to the Israeli government, to the Palestinian Authority leadership, to the Egyptian authorities trying to maintain control of Sinai, and even to Hamas.
|Keeping the flame alive|
For the Israeli protest movement, the attack punctured the momentum that had been building up, with every weekend producing new, creative ideas for how to move forward.
|The struggle will continue|
On Friday morning I went to the Rothschild Blvd. tent encampment “command post”, and was assured that the activists have no attention of giving up – the struggle will continue, despite the call by Deputy Minister Ayub Kara (Likud) and others that the activists should fold up their tents, since now was a time for the nation to come together to face the new security crisis. Kara is a “Druze Zionist”, holier than Pope, whose hyper-nationalistic positions can sometimes make even Netanyahu sound moderate.
|With quiet determination|
Heading out, I ran into Prof. Nissim Kalderon, and complimented him on his article on Y-Net, the website of Yediot Ahronot, in which he said that for years we in the Israeli peace movement had failed to move the masses, and this younger generation had succeeded. “Maybe they know something that we didn’t,” and we should respect that, and not try to impose our agenda on them. “Do you know what the key expense used to be for Peace Now rallies?” he asked. I didn’t, and he said “the ads in the newspapers! And notice, that all that has happened this summer, took place without a single ad! Only Facebook and e-mail communication!” The power of social media.
Rona said that she hesitated about going ahead with the performance, given the tragic violence and loss of life in the south, but since her songs are anyway rather melancholy, she decided that the show must go on. She opened with the title song of her new album, Hamra’ot V’nichitot (Departures and Arrivals), which begins with the line “Good news and disasters…this time something exploded…” And she concluded with her well-known Mabul (Flood, the English version is called Earthquake), with the line “we’ll survive the flood,” with much of the audience singing along with her, in whispers. One of the tent protest organizers called out from the entrance – “Rona, tell them that there’s going to be a March of Silence tomorrow evening,” and always ready to give her time in defense of democracy, human rights and peace, she repeated the message into the mike.
|All photos by H. Schenker in Tel Aviv|
On Saturday evening about 10,000 people gathered at Habima Square near the tent protest headquarters at the end of Rothschild Blvd., and marched silently through the streets of Tel Aviv, carrying flaming torches and a mixture of makeshift and professional signs, with police motor-cycles with bright blue headlights leading the way and making sure that the traffic wasn’t interrupted. “Make Welfare Not War”, “The Protest Will Continue”, “There’s no Personal Security without Social Security”, “Tycoons Beware, the Poor are Coming”, “Single Mothers from the Hatikva Quarter Demand Social Justice”, “The March of Silence – The Pain belongs to all of us, the Protest belongs to all of us”, “Bibi there is a state outside of Tel Aviv”, a big red heart with the slogan “Identifying with the South”, a bi-lingual sign in Hebrew and Arabic – “Needed – Public Housing”, “Peace for All” with Jewish, Christian and Moslem symbols, “Only Together will we Overcome”, “Social Justice for All”, “Revolution! 7 Million People are Waiting for your Reply Bibi”, “Bread, Work and Peace”, “We won’t let terror win, continuing with the protest!” “Barak, wipe that smile off your face. We’re staying in the streets,” and even a sign held up by Rabbis for Human Rights, “Solidarity with the people in the south and in Gaza.”