And then the righteous will see [this] and rejoice, and the upright will be jubilant, and the pious will exult with joyous song; injustice will close its mouth, and all the wickedness will vanish like smoke, when You remove the rule of evil from the earth.(from the Metsudah Mahzor, Metsuda Publications, New York, from Sefaria)
The massive public demonstrations against the current neo-fascist government in Israel continued for the 36th week. Why?
Because this current government of Israel is dangerous and destructive of the basic tenets of democracy. Every day it gets worse. The list of the mistakes, failures, insults and incitements grows every minute. It is embarrassing, an absolute disgrace. In fact, the word that I heard spoken most often at the demonstrations during the last two weeks in Jerusalem was busha, which means “shame on you!”
Why has it gotten so bad that the majority of the people of Israel are completely fed up and would elect a more moderate government tomorrow morning, if elections were held, according to all recent polls?
The main reason for this implosion is the “leader” at the top of the pyramid, Prime Minister Netanyahu, or “Bibi” as he likes to be called (according to his recent autobiography). Bibi has brought this mess upon himself, and the citizens of Israel, with the help of his partners in the current ruling coalition—the ultra-orthodox parties and the super-extremist far-far-right “Religious Zionism” political parties (there are 3 parties now, even though they were united in the last election) which are led by irresponsible, racist and supremacist “leaders”. Bibi should never have invited these people into the government. He knew from the beginning that they would cause himself and the citizens of Israel great harm. But they were his only option if he wanted to return to power (for year no. 16!!).
Not only have Bibi and his partners in the Likud and the other political parties in this coalition launched an unbridled attack on the justice system in Israel, but they have been making a mess of foreign policy as well as education. Our minister of Foreign Affairs is not welcome in most countries in the world. Nor is our Prime Minister, for that matter. By the way, he will go to speak at the U.N. in about two weeks. While there, most of the representatives of the nations of the world will not listen to his speech, but he doesn’t really care. He is mostly interested in a photo-op with President Biden. In the meantime, he is practically begging for an invitation to the White House. (I hope that he doesn’t get one, since this would legitimize him once again as an important statesman in the world, which would be a falsehood.)
The Minister of Education is another Bibi lackey, and he has made many irresponsibly dangerous populist statements in recent weeks. Along the way, he has attacked the leadership of Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial institution, and he has threated to try to interfere with the leadership of the National Library (which will dedicate its new building in October in Jerusalem). He also cancelled some of the important reforms of the last minister of Education, just to show who is the boss now. There is very little, if any education for genuine democracy in Israeli schools. This year, the teachers are allowed to have discussions about the judicial “reforms” (read “attacks”) but they are not permitted to express their opinions, Heaven Forbid.
The Minister of “National Security”, Itamar Ben Gvir, an outright Kahanist from the Jewish Power political party, is causing much damage every minute, every day. Much has been written about his delinquent past, as a proven trouble-maker and anarchist, but nothing compares to his irresponsible statements and actions since he has become a minister in this government. He is, unfortunately, in the news almost every day, which he likes– he loves to make outrageous racist statements which get him headlines (like the one where he said that the safety of himself and his family on the roads of the West Bank is more important than the lives of Palestinians or his support for attacks of “hill top youth” settlers against innocent Palestinians in the West Bank). He is by far the worst of the worst, but what is most distressing is that he and his six colleagues from his party who hold various positions in the government and the Knesset, hold the power of Bibi and his Likud party in the coalition. If he and his party left the coalition—which could happen if he has very bad temper tantrum (God-willing!)—then Bibi’s government would fall.
All of this –and there is much more—explains why the demonstrations against this terrible government continue into their 37th week. The majority of Israeli citizens are speaking up for their country, including many who voted for Likud and the political parties further to the right of them who are fed up with the current insanity and instability. The majority of the people of Israel see clearly the dangers inherent in this government in every field, and want to prevent their country from becoming a dictatorship. Also, in a recent demonstration against the government in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, Israeli Arab leaders were among the speakers. They too are recognizing the clear and present dangers presented by this government. They feel it very deeply and personally, as the police in Israel are not doing their job in combatting crime and growing numbers of gangland murders in the Arab towns and cities and villages of Israel. This is one of the most serious issues not being addressed by this terrible government.
In previous months, when only the attack on the judiciary was on the agenda, I used to go to the protests on Saturday night in Jerusalem with a sign with a quote from the Torah: “Justice, Justice You shall pursue.” But recently, in the spirit of the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that are coming up soon, I have a new placard (made for me by one of my granddaughters) that says Ki Ta-avir Memshelet Zadon min HaAretz, which I would loosely translate as “May this government of wickedness pass from the earth.” This is a phrase taken from the central prayers of the High Holy Days known as the Amidah. Another translation might be: “May this government of tyranny vanish from the land.”
You get the point. This government has to go. In place of it, we need a moderate, sane, centrist government (unfortunately a left-led government is no longer possible in Israel). The resistance movement will ultimately bring this government down, since it cannot last. In all the recent public opinion polls, this government would not be re-elected if elections were held now.
In order to help bring this about, I join the Saturday night demonstrations in Jerusalem, opposite the residence of the President of Israel, as often as I can, with my new sign in hand. I join with thousands of people in place—and hundreds of thousands of concerned people all over Israel and in the Diaspora—in praying with my feet, as Rabbi Heschel used to say. We join together to uphold a different vision for Israel—as a liberal, tolerant, pluralistic, diverse, rational country—one that will promote the common good for all of its citizens, and engage in dialogue for peace with our Palestinian neighbors.