Over the past six months of civil unrest here in Israel, I have refrained from attending any protests or demonstrations regarding the judicial reform. Not because I don’t have an opinion or care about the issue – I most certainly do. But, finding myself among the solid majority of Israelis who want judicial reform but not one as radical and controversial as the government is trying to pass has led me to conclude that I can’t support either side.
I can’t demonstrate in favor of the current plan, because I am against it. And I also can’t join the protesters who object to any reform whatsoever. Furthermore, I have been greatly distressed and alarmed that the anti-reform protests have crossed numerous red lines that should never be crossed. They have crossed red lines by blocking roads and interfering with daily life in ways that go far beyond the limits of legitimate civil disobedience, by intentionally damaging Israel’s economic and political standing abroad, and – absolutely inexcusably – by threatening to refuse reserve duty, potentially damaging the IDF’s ability to protect all of our lives.
And so, I have found myself feeling rather helpless and torn. I am angry with leaders on both sides (the government and the protest leaders) for acting so irresponsibly, and greatly distressed with how the discord they are sowing is tearing apart our beloved country – over an issue about which polls consistently show a solid majority in favor of compromise! I began to feel like the true mother in King Solomon’s famous judgment, who was willing to give up her baby to save him from being slaughtered by the other one, who would have seen him sliced in half just for spite….
Then, on Friday, I received an invitation to a different kind of demonstration – this morning’s unity march, beginning with a prayer for unity at the Kotel, and then a human chain to the Knesset. I was initially skeptical about going, concerned that this would either be a gathering of Religious-Zionist Jews talking to themselves, or alternatively, a ruse to somehow trick supporters of the reform into participating in an anti-reform protest. But I went anyway.
The scene was encouraging – nothing approaching the tens of thousands who attend the actual protests, but still a large and impressive group of people. And a diverse group, clearly including people on both sides.
During the prayer part of the morning, some people went to recite shacharit while others stayed in the back part of the Kotel plaza conducting an informal prayer of sorts, singing soulful songs while waving flags. Down in the prayer area, some people whose shirts identified them as anti-reform protestors were walking around, not praying in the conventional sense but sort of taking in the scene. Some approached the wall and some did not. National Unity leader Benny Gantz came in briefly and also approached the wall.
Afterwards, we marched together and formed the human chain. Some people engaged in discussions with representatives of the other side (if only our politicians would do the same). Others shouted slogans of unity. Nothing was solved, but a lot of good will was expressed – and these days, that’s huge.
I left with a renewed sense of optimism and hope. We are still one nation. We can get through this together.