No timeout for Passover, Saturday night protests intensified

By David E. Kaplan

As I write, while the US is absorbed with one Stormy Daniels, Israel was enjoying a Passover respite from one Stormy Session – that is, in the Knesset and  I suspected possibly as well in the street. Our somewhat battered President too deserved a rest-and-recharge after investing his time, reputation and his presidency on trying to diffuse the explosive judicial overhaul issue that he lamented a “nightmare”.

Chaos in the Knesset. A stormy Constitution Committee meeting on the government’s planned judicial overhaul at the Knesset on February 13, 2023.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Adding to this “nightmare” as Israel tries to unravel itself from who it is, what it wants to be, and where it wants to go, is battling  – as I write – an escalation on multiple fronts with mortars from Lebanon in the north, rockets from Gaza in the south and from the east a seemingly endless queue of suicidal Palestinians rushing to kill and be killed. And if we needed any further reminder of our existential vulnerability it is what lies to our west  – the SEA!

No Israeli is unaware of the threats of our enemies to “drive the Jews into the sea.

And it was at “the sea” that the latest murderous attack occurred – Friday night –  when a terrorist in a stolen car started randomly shooting at pedestrians then careered the vehicle onto the boardwalk ramming people. Before being neutralized, he had killed one – a 36-year-old-Italian tourist – and wounded seven others.

In an ironic perverse twist, Tel Aviv was living up to its reputation as “the city that never sleeps”. The city was on edge – could there be more attacks?

And if this is how the day tragically ended, it began no less tragically with two British-Israeli sisters – aged 15 and 20 – killed, and their 48-year-old mother critically injured in a West Bank shooting attack when terrorists opened fire at their car, causing it to crash and then fired 22 bullets at it. The UK Foreign Office confirmed that the three were British nationals. The father of the family who was traveling in a separate car just ahead, turned back, and was present as medics arrived to treat his family.

It was in this seemingly insane scenario during Passover, that made me surmise that the protests might take a timeout. It was these thoughts that were percolating in my mind as I joined a bunch of friends in Kfar Saba as we made our way, armed with our Israeli flags, to the kikar (city square), thinking there would be less of a crowd than usual.

A Sea of Blue and White. Saturday night’s mass protest against judicial overhaul in Kfar Saba’s main city square, 8 April, 2023.(photo: D.E. Kaplan).

Affirming these thoughts was the quiet; not the usual loud music pulling in the crowd. This we very soon realized was expected in deference to the heart-wrenching loss of life the day before to terrorism. What was unexpected was what met our eyes as we rounded the crest and descended the ramp down to the kikar. It was a sea of blue and white from the mass of flags been held aloft. If the previous Saturday night had been a massive crowd, this gathering seemed even larger. Amongst this massive crowd were so many youngsters, kids on the shoulders of their parents, as well as many seniors in their battery operated vehicles – people who had helped build this country and fought in its wars.

Are these  what Netanyahu  has repeatedly slurred as “anarchists”?

It was visually clear that the protests now had a momentum – a dynamic – all of its own.

The speakers – no lightweights – included the former Foreign Minister of Israel, deputy-Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, and Leader of the Opposition, Tzippi Livni and esteemed military and security analyst Reichman University’s Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad. All were warning and cautioning that Israel was on a dangerous path to “dictatorship” and all this government had to show for itself after three months in office was – CHAOS! Hardly a contested assessment when one examines its embarrassing scorecard.(See MEN’aces FROM THE MINISTRY)

Sounding the Alarm. Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni addresses protesters during a demonstration against the Israeli government’s controversial justice reform bill. (photo SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News)

Tuning in later to i24News, I tapped into an interview with retired Israeli diplomat and former World Chairman of Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, Avi Pazner. Stressing Israel’s dire situation, “Something it has not been in a long time with confrontation on all its borders and terrorism within,” the last thing the country needs is to contend with is civil strife over the issue of the judiciary.  “This issue can hold over” he said and warned “what can’t hold over” is the multiple dangers converging all at the same time – in meteorological parlance – “a perfect storm”!

I urge the Prime Minister,” asserted Pazner, “to please concentrate on running this country and forget about for the time being the judicial reform.

If there was any need of a reminder of how bad the situation was deteriorating by the day, it came early Sunday morning in the form of more thunderous projectiles, this time from Syria, which fired six rocket in two waves towards the Golan Heights. This followed the earlier waves of rockets from Lebanon and the Strip.

Acknowledging the obvious, Netanyahu said “Israel is in a challenging security situation on all fronts.”

He is also in a challenging situation on the home front.

Is he still up to the job, when he still has the likes of Itamar Ben- Gvir in his position of National Security Advisor blaming the previous government for the deteriorating security situation. Is it any wonder that former defence minister, MK Benny Gantz responded with:

Ben Gvir’s statement is complete madness. There has never been a minister in the cabinet who has said so much about security and understood so little. There has never been a minister in the cabinet who, while rockets are being fired on our citizens and our daughters are murdered on our roads, choses to sabotage Israeli cohesiveness and damage its deterrence. Netanyahu must condemn the statement and fire him immediately.”

Close to Home. Anti-reform protesters near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. (Omri Taasan / i24NEWS)

It’s unlikely that Netanyahu will do either.

The story of Passover teaches too about character and leadership, making the tough but right decisions not for oneself but for one’s people.

Will this Prime Minister  rise to the challenges of a Moses and do right not for himself but for the people of Israel?

If not, the protests will only continue.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


  1. If Netanyahu were to stop the Judicial reform or freeze it until the terrible security threats are dealt with Will the protests stop or are they an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government and its prime minister? Does the extreme nature of these protests and the way they have torn Israeli society apart not carry the blame for the weakness that our enemies see that is encouraging them to attack us on all fronts ?
    Why could the protesters not wait until the negotiations bear fruit or not especially over the Passover holidays?

    1. The “extreme nature of these protesters” is in no way whatsoever an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government. On the contrary those “peaceful” protests are reinforcing the democracy currently under threat

    2. There is no doubt that the protests, from the beginning, were multi-causal. Today with the government having responded to the protests forward movement by putting reform on hold, we need ask what is the current dominant drive to protest.
      To this reader it is a minority of Israelis trying to unseat the elected government.

  2. For the most part Michael, a lack of trust in this PM demands maintaining momentum. That lack of trust is of his own making. What Bibi promises at breakfast, is hardly valid at lunch, never mind far into the future at dinner. This is a tragic characteristic corroborated by those closest to him politically/ ideologically. The judicial issue galvanizing the weekly protests remains at the core and will remain so until there is nationally SAFE collective path ahead for this country and the Jewish people.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.