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A strange sense of hope

It was a deeply heartening sight to see so many people coming together, united in a common cause
Israelis rally outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, protesting against the government's planned judicial overhaul, on February 13, 2023. (Raoul Wootliff)
Israelis rally outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, protesting against the government's planned judicial overhaul, on February 13, 2023. (Raoul Wootliff)

As a former journalist (including for this esteemed publication), I have covered my fair share of protests over the years. I have stood on the sidelines, notebook and microphone in hand, speaking to protesters, taking notes, and documenting their grievances. I have then retreated to the safety of the sidewalk, sitting with my laptop on my knees to craft a balanced and objective report on the events that had just unfolded.

This time, having left journalism a year ago, things are different. Now, I am not just a neutral observer, documenting the actions of others. This time, I am a participant, an active player in the fight for Israeli democracy.

You see, there’s a storm brewing in our country, a storm that threatens to erode the very foundations of our democracy. Proposed legislation aimed at neutering the power of the Supreme Court would render the institution toothless, unable to serve as a bulwark against government overreach and a defender of the rights of the people. As someone who cannot envision a future for Israel without the fundamental principles of democracy, I have joined the protests aimed at preserving them.

That’s what brought me to the Knesset on Monday, to stand outside the parliament I had entered hundreds of times as a reporter. Shoulder to shoulder with thousands upon thousands of proud patriots, we waved Israeli flags and chanted “DE-MO-CRA-CY” at the top of our voices in the hope that those inside the building would hear and heed our plea.

As a journalist, I learned that cynicism was often a necessary shield against the sometimes-harsh realities of the stories I sought to tell. That barrier made it all too easy to become jaded, to lose faith in the power of ordinary people to effect change. Now, however, I find myself experiencing a newfound sense of optimism. I’m no longer bound by the professional obligation to maintain a detached and skeptical demeanor. I’m free to let my guard down, to believe that these protests can make a difference.

It’s a strange feeling, this optimism, but it’s also a welcome one. To see so many people coming together, united in a common cause, is a deeply heartening sight. And to believe that our collective voice can bring about real change, that our actions can help preserve the democratic values and institutions that we hold dear, is a powerful thing indeed.

I don’t want to be naive; I know that the road ahead is not easy, that there will be setbacks and obstacles along the way. But the fact remains that the power of collective action, of people coming together to effect change, should not be underestimated. That’s why I was able to stand outside the Knesset filled with a sense of hope, a belief that our chants do make a difference and that we can bring about real change.

And so, I will continue to stand with my fellow protesters, raising our voices in a chorus of dissent, fighting for what we believe in. Because in the end, that is what democracy is all about, the right of the people to make their voices heard, to fight for what they believe in, to make a difference. And that is a cause worth fighting for.

About the Author
Raoul Wootliff is Head of Strategic Communications at Number 10 Strategies, an international strategic, research and communications consultancy. He was formerly the Times of Israel's political correspondent and producer of the TOI Daily Briefing podcast.
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