Last night, I drove to the southern city of Yavne to take part in the 33rd Shabbat protest. The main reason for this choice was the opportunity to listen to a speech by Dr. Orit Kamir, a renowned scholar, feminist, and activist who had been invited to speak at the demonstration. For me, it was also a chance to be in Yavne, the birthplace of the Solitary Protest (מחאת היחידים) initiated by Amir Haskell, and the Balfour protest organization ‘There is No Way,’ אין מצב, which protested against Benjamin Netanyahu, asserting that a person accused of wrongdoing should not continue to serve as a prime minister. Since it is August and many people are on vacation, while others prefer to go to Kaplan where the atmosphere is energizing and hopeful, there weren’t that many people in the Yavne protest. Still, the several hundreds who came, were determined and dedicated. It was clear that they saw it as their civil responsibility to attend their local demonstration whenever they could.
After a brief introduction by Ronit Ehrenfreund, the demonstration’s organizer, she invited Ami Ayalon to speak. Ayalon is a retired head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service, and a decorated officer who served as the commander-in-chief of the Israeli navy. He started his speech by asking the crowd not to interrupt him or shout “Shame,” which is a common reaction to testimonies about the government and coalition’s abuse of power. The polite audience honored his request, but it was clear to me that the effort to remain silent diminished the impact of his speech, leaving the audience disengaged and disappointed.
In contrast to Ayalon, Kamir’s speech was lively and filled with enthusiastic outbursts. She actively encouraged the audience to get involved and raise their voices. Kamir is a well-known and courageous feminist, who was the one that as a young academic, proposed the draft legislation that was adopted by the Israeli parliament and became Israel’s law for preventing sexual harassment. Dr. Kamir has consistently been an excellent and prolific writer, researcher, and speaker. But now because of the Judicial Overhaul her voice is especially needed. Kamir described the government’s plan to regress women and minorities by decades through implementing old-fashioned, malicious segregation. Her passion and clarity were evident. She concluded her talk by urging the audience to follow the example of the Jerusalem protest. In Jerusalem, she recounted, the crowd concludes their chanting of ‘Shame’ by shifting to chanting ‘Hope’—Tikva (תקוה).
Local demonstrations might not be as glamorous as the major ones in Kaplan, Jerusalem, or Haifa. However, I believe that true change will come when in every city, town, or small village, people protest, and continue doing it until democracy is fully restored.