On that dark night, in the cold, with the dimmed lights of the street shining around us, we all felt it at the same time – things would never be the same again. It was a birth of something…it was something that was not tangible, and at that time, perhaps we did not realise what it meant – but what we did know was such a feeling of hope it made our hearts feel like bursting. A collective feeling of we can do this!
What exactly, we didn’t know. Sussex Friends of Israel was in its infancy, an initiative that was completely grassroots, and members of the community, who had come to the conclusion that doing nothing was no longer an option against the hatred being spewed out by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions brigade, and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign toward shops who happened to simply sell Israeli goods,(think about that for a moment!) and the nation of Israel itself.
It’s just over two years since Sussex Friends of Israel was born, and many other pro-Israel groups have sprung up in the same grass-roots style since then, but what consolidated us I believe, was outside the Brighton Dome, that night in November 2012.
We had all watched Israel being pilloried in the national and the international stage, and ached to be able to do something, to share a different truth, a different country to that which was being held up to unrelenting abuse.
That night, as we sang and danced to Jewish songs, and waved the Israeli flag, if one glanced at the BDS/PSC, one saw contorted, twisted faces of hate that screamed at us from the other side of the pavement. It was an educational experience. Some of us had never come across such venom and aggression before for standing up for Israel, as we received that evening. Some of us had never done anything like this before in any way. Yet, this was different. The atmosphere was indescribable . I remember people declaring it as the best night ever. A triumph, and I completely agree with them.
Batsheva brought us an experience that made us feel: We were together in solidarity…..and we’re doing this! We can do this….We can actually do this!! Batsheva came and went.
But things were not ever going to be the same again.
Within a relatively short space of time, other Friends of Israel groups had sprung up, to defend Israeli shops that were being targeted in their own counties, and petition their own MPs and respective authorities. People were becoming more connected, more united. It is something unique…something I doubt many of us have ever seen before, if indeed, it has ever happened before. Something is happening in Cyberspace online, too. In the last year, a massive amount of pro-Israel Facebook and twitter sites dedicated to showing the truth about Israel have sprung up, with surprising amounts of members on their respective Pages. In early September 2013, there were not that many grassroots campaigns or Pages online. There were the traditional Zionist institutions, but only a few, not many. Now, there are hundreds. They are all over the world, and they are brilliant.
Something has begun. It’s a shimmer of hope after so long – a need born out of desperation at the inaction (and perhaps fear) of our communities to stand up and be counted against the onslaught of hatred we face. What to call it? Zion’s Spring. I can’t tell you what the turning point was for those people, or those communities.
Something is happening, both online and in our communities, led by people of all different faiths. What began this spring? For others, I cannot tell you, but I can tell you when it all changed for us down in Brighton.
That night at Batsheva.