Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

Yes we’re tired. No, we won’t stop protesting

Own work and Wikimedia Commons
Own work and Wikimedia Commons

Our nerves are done in. We’re distraught. I broke a glass, putting it down while I was thinking about anything but drinking the water inside. It’s too hot to work in the garden. I watch from the window: You can practically see the bean plants grow up the sides of the tomatoes. But beans and tomatoes are too smart to smother one another. They’ve developed cooperation strategies, share the vertical space. Unlike some humans in this place, they’ve learned how to work together in their small raised bed.

I’m watching people walk past the back door in their coolest summer clothing, carrying flags. If before we were mad, it’s now beginning to feel like life and death. It turns out we care – deeply – about the kind of country in which we want to live.

The coalition put off voting on the judicial overhaul; they cut the new laws up into bite-sized chunks hoping to make them more digestible to the reasoning – and reasonable – public. They promised to “soften” the law; they joined negotiations they had no intention of honoring; and then they predictably blamed the other side when the negotiations failed. They thought we would forget, that we would get tired of demonstrating week after week.

Here’s a news flash: We are tired. We have trouble sleeping at night. We’re a nation of insomniacs, especially in summer. The helicopters and planes flying overhead every evening don’t help. One friend tells me that between running to demonstrations and putting up signs, she barely has time to eat and breathe. Another, from a former SSR, overcame her trauma from the enforced “demonstrations” of her childhood, and joined one of our noisy non-violent ones. Yet others are engaged in a sort of demonstration derby, hitting two or even three on a Saturday.

We’re tired, and yet we keep it up, week after week. We turn out on a sweltering day in July, despite knowing that if we are taking things up a notch, so are the police; despite knowing that this time, there will be arrests. This time someone might get hurt. We know, as well, they can arrest a hundred or so, but they can’t stop tens of thousands from taking to the streets.

If we block intersections, stand in the entrance to the airport or blow whistles the regulation 300 meters from the house of a Knesset member, please remember, our intent is not to make you late to work or your dinner get cold. It’s not to make you wish you had never bought a home next to these neighbors you had thought were such nice people.

In fairness, we gave you advanced warning.

We do want your attention. We want you to know what we’re capable of when we decide to act together. We want our so-called lawmakers to see the consequences of their actions – to get in their faces and spell it out. We won’t be trivialized, marginalized, categorized, stereotyped or even ignored.

If we engage in “illegal” activities – like making you sit in traffic an extra half hour or getting you to hang your head as you push past us on your way to Bulgaria – it is because the word “legal” is about to become meaningless. We are already seeing the way that this government is instituting one law for settlers who terrorize the Palestinian population, one law for the ultra-Orthodox, one law for protestors in Tel Aviv, one law for the Palestinian population of the country. They’re out to eviscerate the one body that can still insist on equality as a component of legality. And in watching that process play out, we’ve become more aware than ever of what we stand to lose.

The reserve soldiers who say they’ll refuse to serve are afraid too. They fear international reprisals; they fear being ordered to take part in unlawful operations. They’re tired – tired of serving while politicians barter with their lives. They understand the impact wide-spread refusal might have on the country’s security. They also understand that any army, ours included, is an extension of the country’s politics. It is, after, all, our political leaders who make peace, declare war and decide whether to keep the Palestinian Authority on life support. The air force officer who wrote, explaining his decision, that they had sworn to protect the “country, not a king,” had it right the first time.

Yes, we’re tired. No we won’t give up. It turns out anger and fear are powerful motivators, and we’re feeling plenty of both. It’s true they keep us up at night. But they also keep us going to join others at intersections and the airport. As long as it takes.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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