How else to message Jerusalem before it’s too late?
By David E. Kaplan
Late last Wednesday afternoon, I was at the kid’s playground at Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona market, expecting little more than a fun few hours with my grandkids. Apart from the obvious enjoyment of engaging with the li’l ones, it’s also one of those rare times I can get away having a ‘glida’ (Hebrew: ice-cream), usually “verboten”. However, what time should have been simple and sweet became complex and sour, for instead of running after them between the play equipment, we the grandparents were met with “Mah..?” (what?) followed by “Lamah…?” (why?) concerning the sudden cacophony of sound, loudspeakers, and angry police keeping “big people” apart. The protest and counter protest was not something to avoid; it was happening adjacent to the playground. How does one explain to 3 and 5 year-olds that the ‘big people’ are angry; that they are trying to send a message to “important” people in Jerusalem but no-one is listening and that if it was Saturday night, their grandparents too would be among the “big people” protesting.
While this complex drama was playing out, my mind drifted to that profound observation in the 1970 movie classic, Cromwell, when Oliver Cromwell played by the late Richard Harris, arrives in London on horseback from his country estate summoned to an agitated Parliament and says anxiously to his enquiring two teenage sons amidst a public commotion in the streets:
“When men run out of words, they reach for their swords. Let’s hope we can keep them talking.”
The “we” did not succeed because the king, Charles I, was not interested in listening and a painful civil war ensued.
Today, the Israeli “we” are talking; that is what these protests are about. They are the collective voice of the people. How else can they make their voices heard? Write letters to newspapers and if published will have as much impact as having been drawn in beach sand? Wait until the next election by which time the ethos of this country will be unrecognizable? One could still petition the Supreme Court, which is precisely why Netanyahu wants to disembowel it of its judicial gut!
The Supreme Court is to Netanyahu what Thomas Becket was to King Henry II. Some eight centuries after the first Plantagenet king cried out “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”, Israel’s justice minister, Yariv Levin, hears his “King Bibi” appeal and reaches for his proverbial sword. That is why we are in the mess we are and why the protest will and needs to continue.
At present, we too have neither ‘king’ nor coalition listening.
They say that democracies do not disappear overnight; that they erode over time, little by little, surely but assuredly until that day the people awake to discover it’s absence. This is not what is happening in Israel. The process could not be more out-in-the-open nor rapid, with a prickly populace awakening every day with an OMG and a groan to the news of another outrageous embarrassing statement or act of misconduct by members of this coalition government. An integral part of this pathetic political pantomime is the prime minister, the master of oratory that has less of an audience at home besides his safe Channel 14, explaining in English to a gullible overseas media, mostly in the USA that the judicial law is “minor” and that democracy fears by the protestors are “silly”. What Bibi and his gang are orchestrating is not “minor” and the people’s fears for Israeli democracy are not “silly”.
The Israeli people that produced a magnificent country in record time are wise to the attempted undoing by this catastrophic coalition. They have fought off the enemies from without; they will fend off the enemies from within.
At some stage we hope that reason will prevail and that the judicial overhaul will be SUSPENDED allowing people to talk before they reach for their swords. The constitutional issues that have unsettled this nation are complex having to meet multifarious interest groups across the political, ethnic and religious divide and need time to study, present and then decided upon. Possibly even voted upon in a referendum.
In this way we will avoid the impending implosion and grandparents can safely return to the playground without having to engage five-year-olds about politics.
I may even catch up on the “glida” (ice-cream) I unjustly missed out on.
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