The Ritual of Kaplan

Last night was the 23rd Shabbat of the protest against the Judicial overhaul. As I was walking through Kaplan street and looking at the preparations, I suddenly  understood that our Kaplan  demonstration, with all its attributes, has quickly turned into a ritual . The Hebrew word Tekes (which means ceremony or ritual) is  especially appropriate as each of its English equivalents  does not reflect the Israeli spirit. 

According to the French sociologist David Emile Durkheim, a ritual is a symbolic and effective tool which strengthen and reaffirm social unity, Bryan Turner and  Clifford Geertz regard ritual as a force, which  brings about change and  still preserves social order.  Sociologists define ritual as a public event with social and cultural significance that has certain specific characteristics: It is a  formal event, with repetitive sequence, specific set of rules and certain people who are in charge of performing it..

In Kaplan the ritual has a special sequence, or order,  which the audience has come  to trust and rely on.  Since the beginning Shikma Bressler has been the inspiration and the natural Mistress of Ceremony.  She stands on the stage (holding an Israeli flag) together with a translator into sign language.  The quiet presence of the translator, in contrast to the noise of the crowds,  calms the audience and conveys the message that the ritual belongs to everyone. Shikma, the MC dictates the order of things including the singing of the national  anthem at the beginning, the rhythmic chanting throughout, and the shouting of words like shame, democracy, etc.

The purpose of this ritual is to allow the people who are in Kaplan and at home (many people are watching the event online)  to feel a sense of belonging and pride,   and to experience  a kind of a catharsis.  To achieve this goal the choice of the speakers is extremely important. They have to convey a  personal  and emotional speech, and to deliver a  message that would unite everyone. Thus they cannot afford to introduce issues which are not in consensus at this point.  Unfortunately it seems that rituals are not for everybody, and the insistence to perform one in Kaplan every week (apart from the canceled demonstration on  Shabbat 19th, and the anti occupation march last week). Eventually alienates not a small portion of the protesters.   

Last night, about 20 minutes before the beginning of the main  ceremony, several 1973 combatants stood on top of a symbolic tank in Kaplan, one of them gave a poignant speech about the disappearance of the Declaration of Independence  (the actual text was spread next to the tank) from Israeli reality. I felt that the use of different stages could be a good solution and will allow inclusion of important issues which are not dealt with on the main stage. 

In  Israel we are experts at performing and inventing rituals, we also know  how to be  united, when needed. We have a long tradition of religious rituals: The Passover Seder, Rosh Hashanah etc. We also have national and more secular rituals: Memorial Day, Holocaust Memorial Day.  Making Kaplan into a Ritual is crucial in our struggle, but we need to find an honorable way to give voice to those who are silenced so that they will be part of the change.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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