What are you doing to save democracy?
Once upon a time, you may have recognised our kibbutz by its name because of our magnificent education center, or perhaps you may have heard of its pluralistic ideology and the many male and female rabbis we have, representing all kinds of denominations of Judaism. Or perhaps you may have heard of our incredible mikveh, which welcomes those of all faiths and genders to come and use it. And then there’s our two-thousand-year-old mikveh which was excavated and transported by crane to be displayed, in all its glory, close by the modern one. That, surely, you must have heard of.
But now, unfortunately, you recognise the name of our kibbutz because of one member of Knesset, the havoc he’s wreaking and the damage he’s doing to our country, which, apparently, is ‘none of [any other country’s] business’.
When I overhear his name and the name of my home being mentioned together by fellow teachers, peace organisations, or just the man in the street, I want to tell them all: No! That’s not what we’re all about.
Yes, he lives here, in this pluralistic, peace-loving place, where we welcome our Arab neighbours and work tirelessly with them to bring equality at least to the North. And to be honest, I’m not really sure why he chose here. But it’s a kibbutz which accepts everyone – so we accept him too.
This week one of my students told me she’s waking up every day with anxiety – for the country, for the state of our beautiful country. She doesn’t know how to feel better. I asked her to try and list all the things she is grateful for when she opens her eyes. That she’s loved. That she’s safe. That she has a house to live in and clothes to wear and food to eat. That she loves her school. That she is free.
And that’s what I’m doing too, trying to follow Etty Hillesum’s incredible words – incredible because they were written at a time of terrible horror and uncertainty in Holland under occupation of the Nazis – where she says:
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
I take a deep breath and find peace in myself before I get up and face the day. Because the sad truth is, we are facing a government who is trying to take our freedom away from us. One of the most important freedoms one can have: the freedom to choose. Democracy in this country is at risk, and if we don’t fight to change that, then we deserve to lose it.
Some people have told me they’re not going to the demonstrations, because why bother, if they are every week and it’s not affecting change? Some tell me, it’s just not their thing, to go and protest. Others say they are just too busy.
I wonder what those people will say when they suddenly have to send their children to a religious school, or when they are suddenly told what they can and can’t wear, or whether they can even work or get an education at all. After all, if we have a religious state, and no democracy to change that, women will become second class citizens again and there will be nothing they can do about it. That would be a time I would understand defeat – although even then, I would still fight.
But now we have no time for defeat, or even for anxiety. There is too much to do. This week, for example, I went to a demonstration Monday, a shared society creative writing evening Tuesday, a shared society listening circle Wednesday and Thursday I was on strike again. Saturday night, we will go to another of our weekly demonstrations and join thousands of people in Haifa who are also fighting this government, and fighting for justice and democracy.
One of my close friends recently asked me, aren’t you tired?
Yes, I am. I am very tired.
Tired of this government. Tired of people who don’t have the courage to fight against them, and tired of my kibbutz’s reputation being ruined by politics.
I will never be too tired to fight for democracy.