Rabin Square Now!

It was a warm, full-moon July night in which I went to bed late, with the image of Tahrir Square embedded firmly in my mind. The large demonstrations in Egypt continued, with pro the deposed President Mohammed Morsi going to the streets in Cairo and Alexandria, and the pro-democracy, pro-military coup, gathered in the many thousands in Tahrir Square. Whatever one might think of what had transpired lately in Egypt, and whether it’s a coop; if it walks like a duck, and… you know how the saying goes, then it must be a coup. It was a grassroots of individuals, a small group who started this latest movement that, eventually, swelled in that square into a massive tsunami wave that swept Mubarak and his almost 30 years dictatorship away, and ushered in this new, shaky as it is democracy. It hasn’t work so well yet, and the end result of this revolution is not at all clear. But it has been proved yet again that “People Power,” more than any other power, is what spins the wheels of history forward.

On that particular night, or rather early before dawn the morning after, I woke up from a disturbing dream. I found myself planted in the midst of a large demonstration, in a big square. It was very hard to move around, and I was pushed and knocked around a few times, trying to make my way to the front of the crowd. People were shouting all around me, waving flags and hitting drums. I thought they were speaking Arabic, and were cursing me for being a Jew. But when somehow I winged my way forward, I was surprised to hear Hebrew being spoken more and more. It also became a somewhat quieter, better organized demonstration. And then, of all things, it seemed the people were singing together. I couldn’t understand it, at first, since I was sure I was still, inexplicably in Tahrir Square. So why should they speak Hebrew? And why, in a flash, the song they were singing became so familiar to me. How come they were all singing, of all songs, the Israeli song, “Song for Peace”? Then, suddenly, I bumped into a familiar face. It belonged to an old man, who began laughing at me when I asked him if I was in Tahrir Square. “No, stupid,” he said, “you are in Rabin Square!”

I woke up just then, and I lay awake in bed for quite a while. I was trying to solve the riddle of my dream, as hints of morning light were drifting through my window’s blinds. It was a warm night, as I mentioned before, and my bedroom window was wide open, allowing cool dawn breeze to drift in and sooth my throbbing head. With eyes only slightly open, at first, and then shut again, I was trying to find out who that old man was, because I thought he was familiar to me. And mostly, why my dream had started in Tahrir Square, and ended in Rabin Square. Soon, dream unsolved, I fell back to sleep.

But later that day, occupied with other urgent matters, suddenly – truly, out of the blue skies – I remembered who that man was. I forgot his name now, but remembered his beard very well. And remembered that he was the editor of a magazine called “New Outlook,” when I was a young filmmaker in Tel-Aviv. He was also involved in the film and television business, and I was hired by him to write a documentary film about Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president. And it was there, in his office, on a rainy March evening in 1978, that I was introduced by him to a small group of activists who were collecting signatures for a petition. A letter it was, in fact, from army reserve officers of combat units addressed to the then Israeli PM Menachem Begin, urging him to make “Peace Now” with Egypt. I gladly signed that letter, as I was a paratroop officer in reserve. This letter gave birth to the “Peace Now” movement, and was followed by many large, spontaneous, people-powered demonstrations in what was then City Square. Now Rabin Square. Peace with Egypt was achieved, in no small measure, due to that wave of people power.

The day after I woke up with that dream playing in my head, came the announcement from Secretary of State John Kerry that the Israelis and the Palestinians had agreed, in principle, to resume direct peace negations. First they will “talk about the talks” in Washington, and will move forward from there, with the release of some long held Palestinian prisoners already agreed upon. Skeptical as I am of the chances of success for these new negotiations, I was still overjoyed. To be frank, on the scale of one to ten – i.e., a peace agreement resulting between the two sides that will be based on the premise of Two-State Solution, two nations living side by side in peace – I give it only one chance of success.

However, I am ready to go back to the streets again, in order to see this “ten percent chance” succeeding. Once again, it is up to the Israeli people to rise up again for the occasion. PM Netanyahu, even with all the pushes and shoves of the Americans and the Europeans, will not be able to make this peace come true on his own political will and power. It is time for People Power, yet again. Like in Tahrir Square. Like the City Square back in 1978. As President Obama himself had said in a speech in Jerusalem, while on his visit there earlier this year, the people of both nations must push their leaders toward taking bold moves for peace. Leaving it to their own devices, those leaders will not make it happen. Just as we did when Begin was Prime Minister, the people of Israel, young and old, must rise up to the occasion and push Netanyahu to once and for all solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time again now, for People Power to march on to Rabin Square.

About the Author
Hillel Damron was born in Kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust; he was an officer of elite paratroop unit who was wounded in battle; studied film and became a director of TV documentaries, video shorts and a feature film. Damron is the author of three novels, short stories and a political blog; winner of Moment Magazine’s 2011 Memoir Contest and is the past executive director of the Hillel House, at University of Davis, California.
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