Yesh Gvul's alternative ceremony / Beate Zilversmidt

The alternative Independence ceremony of Yesh Gvul is already quite an institute itself. Yesterday we came together for the tenth time in front of the stairs opposite the Prime Minister's Office.

The stairs provide a natural podium. But that is not the only reason to do it there. This is also the place where Emil Grunzweig was killed with a grenade thrown by a right-winger when walking in the frontline of a Peace Now demonstration. That was 1983, during the months after the IDF-supervised Sabra and Shatila massacre.

In short, the place symbolizes what brings every year some thousand people to stand hours in the Jerusalem evening cold to attend this simple but solemn and serious ceremony instead of staying home and feeling alienated during the official 'Yom Ha'atzmaut' celebrations.

What is special about it is that Yesh Gvul succeeded to make this event the event of all, not just of its own members. Paradoxically it is the organization named "There is a border" which blurs the dividing lines between peace organizations by inviting every year a variety of representatives of different worthwhile initiatives. As the invitation formulates it: "to light a beacon for an immediate cessation of senseless violence and of the Occupation regime that generates it, advocating a correction of the wrongs caused by Israeli society, urging an improvement in our attitude towards the weak and the needy among us, and expressing hope of peace with all our neighbors."

These noble causes were represented this year by:

  • Akil A-Talalka, resident of Twil Abu Jarwal in the Negev (whose "illegal" home has been demolished 5 times)
  • Prof. Kalman Altman, Hadash central member and Haifa activist;
  • Johnny Bayu, the Center for Development of African Refugees (a political refugee);
  • Lakia Yardeni, of the Ahoti (‘my sister’) Rikma project (Ethiopian women embroidery, Kiryat Gad);
  • Attorney Gabi Laski, human rights lawyer very involved with Bil'in matters;
  • Prof. Jad Ne’eman, Israeli cinematographer
  • Maya Negev, Bnei Avraham (children of Abraham, a group active against the brutality of the occupation in Hebron))
  • Tali Fahima, who all alone built bridges towards Jenin refugee camp militants and went to prison for it
  • Amir Paster, conscientious objector, imprisoned during the second Lebanon war
  • Adam Keller, Gush Shalom (introduced as "he is already so long with us")
  • Anat Hoffman, former J'lem municipal councilor involved in anti-discrimination campaigns
  • Hussein Rafa’ia, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Negev Villages (according to the invitation, he should have been there but in the event he wasn't)

Some of them touched especially sensitive strings: Johnny Bayu ("if Jews don't care about the weak who have nowhere to go, who will?); Akil A-Talalka - simply by being with us in a time which he commemorates as Naqba; Tali Fahima (I light the beacon on behalf of the Palestinians in Israeli prisons, Israeli Arabs who the conflict brought into prison, Lebanese imprisoned in Israel, and the Israelis imprisoned in Gaza and Lebanon - all of these should be considered POWs), showing herself the unbroken, intelligent and determined peacefighter whom we already guessed she was; Amir Paster, so young, speaking only a few words which he didn't read from paper, telling about his father who considers Tali Fahima a traitor and tried in the last moment to prevent his son from sharing a platform; Gabi Laski, as fiery as we know her from the courts crying out against laws which have nothing to do with justice; Maya Negev with her wish that Hebron will get out of its predicament and become again a city whose residents can walk all the streets; Jad Ne'eman - with his hesitation about participating in even an alternative Independence Ceremony, but after all deciding to bear the Israeli burden; Lakia Yardeni - a proud women, proud enough to make her speech in Hebrew with which she obviously still struggles; Kalman Altman - whose stamina, he said, is maintained by remembering that there are so many good people, and to prove his point he read out a list of peace groups, MachsomWatch, Gush Shalom and a lot more.

The last one who spoke was Adam Keller. His anecdote how he had sent back the flags spread for free by Bank Hapolaim gave an exceptional occasion for laughter. The text of what he said appears in full on this site.

Interspersed through the whole event, Ofer Golani and Noam Lekah sang and played the guitar. Sound and texts added to the evening.

For photos of the event, click here.