It’s hard to imagine, looking at the incredible sunrise over the hills here in the Galilee this morning, that just a few hours ago our kibbutz was being ripped apart by supporters of our neighbor, Likud MK Amichai Chikli.
For months now, every Friday at exactly 16:30, peaceful demonstrations have taken place outside his house. Nearer our backyard than his, in fact, for his personal guards set up fences to ensure they are not too near his actual residence. Which means the demonstrations take place on the doorsteps of all of his neighbors’ houses. Week after week we have listened to the cries of “Democracy” and “Shame on you!” and although the majority of our kibbutz are pluralistic, tolerant, peace-loving, kind, left-wing citizens very much against Netanyahu and his attempts to turn our country into a dictatorship, many of us have tried to stay out of it. After all, Amichai is our neighbor. His wife is absolutely lovely and his children are adorable. Who are we to make their lives miserable by presenting them every Shabbat eve with the horrors of which their father is guilty?
But as things have gotten worse and worse, as Chikli has become more and more extreme, calling the very people who are trying to save this country from dictatorship, ‘anarchists’ and ‘criminals’, showing he is against the very foundations of the Conservative Judaism movement on which this kibbutz is built, making statements against our Arab neighbors and friends, some of us finally decided we could no longer be quiet. After all, everybody knows, all it takes for evil to happen is for good people to stand by and do nothing. We were no longer prepared to do nothing.
First, we tried writing to Chikli. He denied saying anything unpleasant. We tried inviting him to sit with us and talk. He accepted and told us he did not care what we thought about him, after all, we are not the people voting for him. We tried some more – with many texts, voice messages and conversations, which made absolutely no difference. He continued to abuse the very people he is living amongst.
And so we realized we had no choice but to be more radical. We made the video you see here – the respectful, carefully constructed, honest and sincere video which simply shows what he has been doing – describing protesters as “anarchists” who are “driven by a hunger for power” – and asking him to think about it, and stop. As Elad says in the video, “Every time you incite against ‘anarchists,’ think of us, your neighbors from Hannaton, from the community, who go out to demonstrations because we are worried about the country.”
The film has caused a rift in our kibbutz and the surrounding neighborhood. There are many people who think it is absolutely wonderful – exactly what was necessary, the right time and the right tone. Others think it was needed but perhaps we should have tried talking to Chikli first – they of course didn’t know what we had been doing behind the scenes. Others think we should have done something but perhaps this was going too far. And others are absolutely disgusted; it is those few who decided to take the law into their own hands a few hours ago.
It was yesterday afternoon, ironically when my partner was busy learning his Torah portion where it explores how the Jewish people were performing the Jewish rituals well enough (at least superficially), yet their treatment of other human beings was seriously lacking. Isaiah says, ‘they don’t seek justice for the orphan and have no interest in the widow’s cause’. God’s response is very harsh – ‘I have no desire for your offerings’, ‘your incense disgusts me’, ‘when you pray I do not hear because your hands are full of blood’.
At that very moment, people from the neighborhoods surrounding us were blocking the gate of the kibbutz, stopping the demonstrators from entering, screaming at them. There were cars all over the road, with other people simply trying to get into their homes. People from the area walked down to the gate and were trying to calm the situation down but to no avail. The police were called. One of the men pulled a gun on one of the demonstrators in his car. When one of our group responsible for orchestrating the film actually got out of her car and cried at him to put the gun away, he told her she was being ‘emotional’. The policemen stood there and did NOTHING. We have them on video doing NOTHING. It’s time Israel woke up and realized this could be the future. Violence everywhere. Now we know how the Arab communities feel. Perhaps we even deserve this.
I’ve spoken to many people in the past few weeks who tell me they don’t go to demonstrations, they don’t follow what the government is trying to do; politics is not for them. Tell me, what will you all do when it is your children who are threatened with violence? When it is your homes? When the police do nothing to help you when these extremists attack YOU?
Israel, wake up!
Afterwards, as though it made up for the whole thing, the horrendous bullies offered the demonstrators watermelon. It was an empty gesture – pathetic, in fact, considering the violent discourse and the threat of real physical violence.
We have told Amichai Chikli – his name ironically meaning ‘My people live’ – that he is the one responsible for this violence. He calls us anarchists, yet these men were causing mayhem and distress in his name.
It is your fault, Amichai, no one else’s.
Only when all of us, Jews and Arabs, wake up, and the whole country fights against these monsters, only then will we succeed. Otherwise, we will have a much larger disaster on our hands.