Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Saturday Night on the Bridge

Flag erected by Mevasseret Zion local council

Every Saturday evening many thousands of Israelis leave home and go out to stand or march in protest in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and towns and villages throughout Israel. They are demonstrating to protest their government’s mismanagement of the war in Gaza as well as to demand the return of the hostages captured by Hamas on 7th October and still held captive in Gaza.

In Mevasseret Zion, where I live, the weekly demonstration is held on the small Hemed bridge that abuts the Arab village of Abu Ghosh and spans the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I arrived there early last Saturday as I had wanted to buy plants at the nearby nursery before it closed, and as I waited for other demonstrators to arrive I was able to witness the arrival of the Border Police unit deputed to maintain law and order at the demonstration. The young men and women arrived in several police vehicles which they placed at strategic points at either end of the bridge.

Then the demonstration organisers appeared in a van, brought out banners and flags, then set up barriers between the road and the pavement, enabling traffic to continue to flow. Soon other demonstrators appeared, and within a short space of time some three- or four-hundred people had gathered on both sides of the road spanning the bridge. The atmosphere was friendly, and in the crowd I recognized friends and neighbours as well as colleagues from my former place of work. Fortunately, there were no counter-demonstrators like those who have attacked demonstations in in other towns. After playing some Israeli songs over the loudspeaker and briefly addressing the crowd, one of the organisers read out the names of all the one hundred and thirty hostages and demanded their release. After each name the crowd shouted in unison: NOW!

The demonstration came to an end, at which point the police moved their vehicles out into the road, blocking it to traffic in both directions. The crowd then pushed the barriers aside and went to stand in the road. The signal was given and we all stood to attention and sang the national anthem, Hatikva, (Hope). The police then  moved their vehicles back, the crowd dispersed and the traffic began to flow again.

Many demonstators had come in their cars, so there was quite a traffic jam back into the village as people tried to leave the area, but eventually everything flowed smoothly and life returned to its normal pace.

And so our ‘new normal’ continues in the most abnormal of situations, and there’s no knowing how and when it will all end. We can only hope that some kind of settlement can be reached, the hostages released and our previous way of life resumed.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.