There was such a time as before October 7th. In that time, I remember being at demonstrations against the occupation and for democracy for all of us who live in Israel, and I waved my Israeli flag proudly. I was happy our beautiful flag had finally been reclaimed from the right-wing fascists, and made into a flag for democracy and peace. Then, around a year or so ago, I was given a beautiful present from a friend of mine, an inspiring activist. She knits hats with the Israeli flag on half, the Palestinian on the other half. It’s a hat symbolising a better future for us all, a time where Arabs and Israelis share society, an equal and fair democracy, whether that’s two states or one. It’s a hat of love and friendship and hope. I wore it at many demonstrations, and I didn’t think it could upset anyone. I was wrong.
Two days ago, we went, as we often do, to a demonstration in Tel Aviv as part of Standing Together and Women Wage Peace, two of the largest peace movements in Israel. We are demanding the return of the hostages. We are asking for a ceasefire. We want to work towards peace, not blindly continue the war under this atrocious leadership that in fact leads to nothing except sorrow and heartache. A young lady thrust a beautiful sign into my hands, the large word PEACE written in gold letters. I proudly held it up high. And then I put on my hat. Immediately I was approached by a Jerusalemite journalist who made Aliyah from Spain, who wanted to write about why I was on the march. He told me he had spotted my hat.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a few men in green uniforms towered over me, and began shouting at me in Hebrew. I didn’t know who they were. My Hebrew is very good, but I still was a little confused; what exactly were they yelling? Something about my hat? They wanted me to take it off. Before I had a chance to think, two kind religious women, worried I was about to get hurt, took me under their wing, told me to ‘keep walking’ and hurried me away from what I realised were a kind of police. I walked away, the journalist catching up with me, now with more to write about. And then suddenly, an older man in police uniform – their boss – barricaded my way. He ‘requested’ I take off my hat. I very calmly asked why – even though others were shouting all around me, filming in a panic and taking photos. I just wanted to know why my hat offended him. He spoke about the Palestinian flag – but hadn’t he seen it was partnered with an Israeli flag? It was clear I was not supporting Hamas or something equally horrendous. Nor was I supporting Palestine. I was supporting peace. But he wasn’t willing to listen, and instead aggressively grabbed my hat. I actually thought he was going to hit me.
My husband followed the officer and got the hat back on the promise I would not just put it on again. But he also told him, ‘This is not the last you will be hearing of this’. And indeed, it isn’t. The video is on many peace groups, his face is now in the Times of Israel and we will also be filing a complaint.
That wasn’t the only time I’ve argued with the police these past two days. Twice yesterday, when standing with signs outside Amichai Shikli’s house (our minister for the diaspora who has not made one phone call to any of the families of hostages with dual nationalities) the police have arrived on his orders. You can’t stand here. It’s outside his house. The only problem is, his home is also our home. His house is a few hundred metres from ours. So we did not move. And we will not move. We will continue until Shikli really sees us, recognises he has blood on his hands as the member of Knesset who started the collapse of the previous, decent government, allowing the current coalition of fascists and demagogues to take power, and leaves the government. That’s our goal. To release the humanity within him before he was corrupted by power.
This country must know about the behaviour of all these police. Police given orders by Ben Gvir to make us quiet, law-abiding citizens. Only, that’s not a democracy. Being ordered to move away in my own home is not a democracy. Having my hat forcibly taken from me is not a democracy.
Why take my hat away? The policeman said it was harming people. Who? Who is it harming? I am not walking with a swastika on my hat. Neither am I dancing around with a Palestinian flag celebrating the death of innocent Jews.
If I have harmed anyone at all by wearing this hat, I sincerely apologise. It was not at all my intention. The opposite, in fact.
I am stating, quite clearly, the status quo cannot continue – our hostages in Gaza, our soldiers are being killed nearly every day. But of course, that’s directly against what Bibi wants. He wants the war to continue at least into 2025. He’s told us. That way he stays in power.
Well, this time I took my hat off to you, Bibi, but next time, I think I’d prefer to be arrested.