It is a quick walk from my office at the corner of Keren HaYesod and Agron Street to my neighbor, the Prime Minister’s Residence. There, gates cordoned off the sidewalk and several hundred people gathered: young and old; religious and secular; Jewish, Muslim and Christian. This is another in a long list of first experiences as a new Israeli citizen: my first protest! Organized by “Tag Meir,” (which does not translate well into English, literally meaning “Light Tag”) this was a protest against the increasingly frequent rash of “Tag Mechir” or “Price Tag” attacks against Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel, their property and their houses of worship. Those of us attending the rally demanded that our government ensure and protect the safety and property of ALL citizens of the State of Israel.
Demonstrations like this represent Zionism at its very best: Israeli citizens of every color, faith and outlook standing shoulder to shoulder to help our homeland advance toward fulfilling the vision of the Torah, the Prophets and the founders of the modern State of Israel. The true Zionist nature of this protest is even more important given that the targets are “Tag Mechir” extremists bent on distorting Zionism and reinforcing the false, odious argument that Zionism is racism. Yerushalmim stood with citizens of Fureidis, Tel Avivnikim with citizens of Um el-Fahm. A clarion call rang out to the Government: “Price Tag “ attacks must be uprooted from Israel.
Although referred to time and again during the protest as an “Irgun Terror,” it is not clear that those carrying out “Price Tag” attacks are actually an irgun, an organization, or if they are individuals or small groups of friends. The use of the terms “terror” and “terrorists” in describing them grates on my ears but fits the Merriam – Webster definition of terrorism:
“The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”
Whether or not they are officially organized, whether or not they exactly fit the definition, “Price Tag” attackers deface and destroy property and houses of worship. The fear and terror they seed creates schisms between Jewish, Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel. While the bulk of “Tag Mechir” attacks have been petty vandalism, there have been a few cases of Molotov cocktails being thrown at cars, beatings like the one in Kikar HaChatulot, and, devastatingly, even death. What starts out as graffiti and slashing of tires can, sadly, escalate to greater violence, to burning down property and to taking lives.
Of course, no rally is perfect. There was the MK who just had to invoke Holocaust imagery, to compare slashing of tires by a few lunatic extremists to Nazi savagery and mass murder. There was the speaker who, over and over again, used the word Korbanot, sacrifices, to describe those who had their car tires slashed or graffiti painted on their walls. Korbanot does mean victims but it is exclusively refers to those killed in or who suffer serious bodily harm from terrorist attacks, not those who need tires replaced. There were religious Jews at the rally but the truth is that most of them were Anglos along with remnants of the farther left described by Ari Shavit in My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. Absent for the most part were the kippot srugot, the crocheted kippot, of the National Religious Zionist community, sabras who are more religiously and politically on the right, who should see the dangers in and protest against the “Price Tag” attacks as well. Finally, like most of our Jewish organizational events, there were too many speakers most of whom spoke for too long. In the end, however, the positives of the message, the speakers, and those gathered for the rally were the real inspiration: Uproot hatred and actions designed to cause terror against the non-Jewish citizens of our country!
Personally, I am a moderate and a pragmatist. On issues regarding Israel’s safety and security, I fall center to center-slightly right. On most issues of civil liberties, I am likely center to center-left. But, as Rabba Tamar Elad Applebaum and Rabbi Benny Lau reminded us during the rally, fighting against “Tag Mechir” attacks is not an issue of left or right, religious or secular; rather, it is an issue for all Israelis. We must demand that our government find the perpetrators immediately. We must eliminate the growing permissibility of ethnic hatred directed toward minorities in Israel.
Yesterday, one of the speakers pointed out that our country can find and track a vessel from halfway around the world and capture it before it gives its weapons over to Palestinian terrorists. Surely, the security services and the military can find a few late-adolescents running around with spray paint and switchblades. In addition, the government can find the leaders, religious or political, who inspire “Tag Mechir” attacks, and bring the full weight of the legal system to bear against them. To be clear, there is no equivalency – moral or otherwise – between individual acts of vandalism and the national terrorism we Israelis face from the West Bank and Gaza every day. Yet, the absence of the equivalency does not absolve us of speaking out against those who do wrong, who seed hate, among our own people.
I joined with hundreds yesterday to demand an end to the hatred, racism and terror imparting acts against Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel. To make real, swift action happen, however, requires much more than one event of several hundred people. A groundswell of thousands demonstrating regularly until “Price Tag” attacks are eliminated from this country is what is necessary. Proud Israelis of every kind, I hope you will join the organizers and the hundreds of others who gathered in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s residence to demand government action to:
- Find the perpetrators and bring them to justice
- Ensure that consequences for “Price Tag” attacks are severe enough to deter any future occurrences
- Make tolerance, acceptance and co-existence education an intrinsic part of both formal and informal educational curricula
- Hold religious and political leaders accountable for their words and actions.
Together, we can move closer to being the “Light unto the Nations” described by Isaiah and to living as the Chevra Hadasha and Jewish nation-state envisioned by Theodore Herzl.
It is no dream.
It requires action.