Last night, during the 39th Shabbat of the protest against the judicial overhaul, I experienced a moment of panic. At 7 p.m., I arrived at Habima Square to take part in the march of the grassroots movements to Kaplan. However, the square was empty and dark. “It is still early, and it’s Sukkot holiday, many people are away,” I said to myself. I waited a while longer, but no one showed up. Finally, I realized that I had the wrong address. Upon checking, I discovered that everyone else was at Dizengoff Square. Since it was getting late, I decided to skip the march and walk straight to Kaplan.
It was reassuring. During the short walk from Habima to Kaplan, I saw familiar sights: people with protest T-shirts, holding Israeli flags, heading toward Kaplan Street. So I calmed down, knowing there would be a crowd tonight. At that moment, I realized that I was forever fearful that people might stop coming to the demonstration, even though they had been there for 38 weeks.
In Israeli culture, we have an idiom referring to anticipation followed by a bitter disappointment. Its source is an autobiographical young adult novel (and a film) called “The Summer of Avia.” In the book, the protagonist Avia invited kids to her birthday, and after all the elaborate preparations, nobody showed up. It was heartbreaking, of course. So when we say, “I hope it’s not going to be the summer of Avia,” we allude to that sad possibility.
While I was relieved to realize that even on the 39th Shabbat during the holidays, Kaplan was full of determined protesters, I understood that the fear that people might despair and stop coming to the demonstrations is always there, hovering like darkness.
The speeches were beautiful and stern. A high-ranking military man, a leader of the women’s protest, and a principal of a prestigious high school in Tel Aviv spoke. They all said the right things and spoke the truth, but there is a feeling that on the other side, nobody wants to listen.
But I know that in real-time, seeing big changes is quite impossible. Yet, in January 2023, Israelis finally stood up to defend our democracy, and we will overcome the darkness.