Avidan Freedman

At the protest with a kippa

From disbelief to anger, my headwear got a rise outside the Knesset, but there are far less appropriate places to wear a yarmulke
Illustration by Avi Katz
Illustration by Avi Katz

As I step off the bus, two older women take a look at me, and suddenly one says, “How does that fit with the kippa on your head?”

“What?” I ask innocently. “The Israeli flag? I think it fits very well.”

“No, no, no. Your shirt.” I was wearing a shirt that calls to bring the hostages home.

“I don’t understand. I think it goes very well. Redeeming captives is an ideal in Judaism.”

“No, no. You all just want to topple Bibi.” She continues on her way, shaking her head and saying to her companion: “But what bothers me most is that he’s wearing a kippa.” I had just come from paying a visit to Ibrahim Al- Razm, who is in the hospital with fractured ribs and a broken nose after being attacked by youth who mistakenly thought he was transporting aid to Gaza. I wonder if she would have been more comfortable with the way the kippot fit on the heads of his attackers.


I have some time before the protest starts, and prayer never hurts, so I decide to walk over to the grave of the Zvhiler Rebbe, right near the Knesset. But as I start walking: “Achi, where do you think you’re going?” It’s a policeman. “You can’t go through here.”

“Oh, I don’t want to go through, I just want to go to the grave of the Zvhiler to pray.”

“You don’t look like you want to pray. You look like you’re going to protest. I can’t let you go protest there.” That shirt again. What is it about it that gets people so nervous here?

“But I’m not going to protest. I just want to pray.”

“Then why are you dressed like that?”

“Well, I plan on going to the protest afterwards. But for now, I really just want to pray.”

As I’m speaking with him, three (!) soldiers join us to provide backup. I’m secretly quite flattered. Four on one. I like those odds.

“Forget it, you can’t go through. If you wanted to pray, you shouldn’t have dressed that way.” At least he wasn’t judging me based on my kippa.

I see that this is going nowhere, briefly consider standing up for my trampled right of freedom of movement against a completely baseless suspicion, and decide I’d rather pray than fight. I walk away, down through the park, and up through the graveyard to the Zvhiler. And I pray.


There’s a single man with a megaphone wrapped in a Beitar scarf shouting at the gathering protestors, calling us traitors, and all manner of other pleasantries. He doesn’t have a kippa. He’s bald, and the sun is beating down. I see someone selling water. True, he is cursing me, but I guess all that “Together we will win” stuff has gotten to me. I buy a cold water and offer it to him. He refuses. “I won’t take any gifts. It would be like taking gifts from Olmert.” I try to explain to him that if Olmert was funding me, I’d probably have a much smaller negative balance in the bank. To no avail.


Someone walks up to me and says: “It’s so moving to see someone with a kippa. I mean, I’m not assuming anything about you or anything, but it just means a lot to see someone with a kippa at one of these protests. It gives me hope that we can live here together.” I love it and I hate it. “Thank you so much. But I have to say, it drives me nuts that it’s considered something special to see someone with a kippa here. It shouldn’t be such a novelty…” Over the course of the protest, at least another three people come over to me, and very sincerely tell me the same thing.


The police have a field day thwarting the protesters’ attempts to march to the Prime Minister’s residence on Azza Street. Very quickly after the march begins, the sweet Jerusalem night air turns putrid with the stench of the “skunk” water cannon used for crowd dispersal. The march is led this way and that way and, for the most part, because the protest is made up of normative Israeli citizens, a good percentage in retirement age and above, who care deeply enough for their country to come out on a hot, hot day to call for elections, there isn’t much resistance. The determined ones discover that the police have created a very, very wide perimeter, blocking off streets far away from Azza Street, so that protestors have no chance to get anywhere near.

The contrast between the massive police presence to prevent peaceful protesters from raising their voices, and the near complete lack of police intervention in response to vigilante youth setting trucks afire, beating truck drivers, and imposing random checks on truck drivers drives home how political the police has become, and how urgently we need to change this government. As we march to and fro, a group of youth with Beitar scarves shout curses at protesters old enough to be their grandmothers and grandfathers, get up in their faces, daring them to respond violently. They sing “Your village should burn,” a violent and racist “cheer” usually directed at Arabs. The police are everywhere but here trying to maintain order and prevent violence. I move to get between the youth and the protesters and try to defuse the situation, telling them to remain calm, not to hate, not to curse. I tell them we’re all from the same villages, brothers. I tell them to practice Ahavat Yisrael and hope it will convince them. After all, they’re wearing kippot.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the co-founder and director of Yanshoof (, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli arms sales to human rights violators, and an educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute's high school and post-high school programs. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.