Protest tent in Tel Aviv's Sarona compound: "Looking the Occupation in the eyes"
Wed. 12:00 till Fri. 16:00 - Protest tent in Tel Aviv's Sarona compound: "Looking the Occupation in the eyes".
What do you say to yourself when you read or hear that the children of Palestinian shepherds have been abandoned to the scorching sun without water? when their shabby huts have been destroyed by settlers and their and their herds' water tanks have been shot by soldiers? You say nothing. In most cases you try to expel the harsh images that flash inside your head. Perhaps you say, what can I do? This is the harsh reality. Or maybe you nod in satisfaction and say to yourself, all Arabs are terrorists!
But not all Israelis are supporters of the occupation and trampling of the occupied.
A protest tent calling on the general public of Israeli citizens to face the realities of the Occupation will be set up in the Sarona compound in Tel Aviv, at the corner of Kaplan and Leonardo da Vinci streets, starting Wednesday at 14:00 noon and Friday at 16:00.
The tent, set up by citizens, women and men, not parties and activists, not political pressure groups,
and not protest organizations, wishes to rattle the indifferent Israelis, those who prefer to ignore, look the other way or bury their heads in the sand, in the face of the horrors that occur daily and hourly in the occupied Territories, where Palestinian shepherds and farmers are persecuted on a daily basis With the help of the army, they are displaced, their homes are destroyed, the water sources for their flocks are looted, their orchards and vineyards are uprooted or burned - and they, men, children, women and the elderly remain forlorn in the fierce sun of the occupied territories. These are the vanquished. People without human rights, whose lives are cheap and who are abandoned by the Israeli military, government and administration in the territories.
We invite everyone to come and hear the true story of what the occupation leads to from Israeli citizens who care and constantly volunteer to go to the Jordan Valley and other territories to support and protect these oppressed. Let’s “look the Occupation in the eyes” and not from a political but human point of view. We present to you the reality as it is, without filters, a reality in which settlers and soldiers abuse Palestinians in order to remove them from their lands and our lives.
The Public, both on the right and left, must sober up and understand that beyond the political issue (that we do not discuss in our tent), the persecution and terror under occupation must stop! There are red lines that must not be crossed, and the damage caused is destructive to the entire Israeli society, to our life here, to education and the economy, and to the future of the people and the State.
We also appeal to the media and social networks to stop being silent and broadcast to the public what is really happening nowadays.
Guy Hirschfeld - 0527025743
Gali Handin - 0544308489
"The only thing necessary for the victory of evil is that good people do nothing" (Edmund Burke)
Seventeen Palestinian protesters arrested during Jerusalem Right-wing March
Twenty fires broke out in Israel due to explosive-laden balloons launched from the Gaza Strip as tensions renew in Jerusalem
Thousands of people took part in the controversial right-wing Flag March in Jerusalem on Tuesday, with police clashing with hundreds of Palestinian protesters near the Old City's Damascus Gate as tensions with Gaza run high after last month's fighting.
Mounted police and skunk water were used to disperse them, while at Herod’s Gate, police fired sponge-tipped bullets at protesters. Police arrested 17 Palestinian protesters.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 33 Palestinian protesters were wounded, though none were seriously injured. Six of them were taken to the hospital. Two police officers were also taken to hospital for treatment after Palestinian protesters threw stones at them.
A few marchers clashed with Palestinians at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, threatening Palestinian women who were standing alone. Some of them chanted: “Death to Arabs,” and “May your village burn down.”
Some 2,000 police officers were deployed to guard the marchers. Dozens of shop owners in the Old City closed their stores after police implored them to do so by 4 P.M., an hour and a half before the parade was scheduled to begin.
The Flag March is an annual event in which right-wing Jewish groups parade through the Old City carrying Israeli flags to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War.
The March was scheduled to take place last month. Its route was first diverted due to security concerns; it was then aborted due to Hamas rocket fire from Gaza toward Jerusalem, which sparked an 11-day round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. On Friday, organizers of the Jerusalem Flag March reached an agreement with the Israel Police to hold the march again on Tuesday along an agreed-upon route.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said later on Tuesday that the militant group's “brave resistance force forced Israel to change the route of the Flag March” so that it would not pass next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Barhoum added that Israel “increased the deployment of the Iron Dome" proved that Hamas succeeded in deterring Israel following the latest escalation with Gaza.
Police limited the number of people who could attend the Israeli flag dance at the Damascus Gate Plaza to 300 people. According to the plan agreed upon by the organizers and the police, the marchers were not to pass through the Muslim Quarter as they had requested, and instead would march through peripheral areas.
Twenty fires broke out in Israel close to the Gaza border due to explosive-laden balloons launched from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in response to the march.
According to a report on Al Arabiya network, citing unnamed sources, Egypt had asked Hamas and Islamic Jihad to refrain from any response that would lead to an escalation, and the two groups told Cairo they were not looking to escalate the situation.
Islamic Jihad called on Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank to be present along the route of the Flag March and “protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The group also said they would renew protests along the Gaza border Tuesday night, as well as launch incendiary balloons from the Strip into Israel.
Prior to the march, the United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, said on Twitter: “Tensions (are) rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile and sensitive security and political time, when UN and Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the cease-fire.”
He urged “all relevant parties to act responsibly and avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation.”
“The Flag March will take place in spite of Hamas and Islamic Jihad opposition,” Religious Zionism lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Tuesday, prior to the start of the event. “I will participate in the Flag March and will fly the Israeli flag with pride,” he added. “We don’t need a permission by Hamas, Islamic Jihad … to march in Israel’s capital.”
Meanwhile, Islamist lawmaker and member of Naftali Bennett’s newly established coalition, Mansour Abbas, said on Tuesday that the march is an “unrestrained provocation” that amounts to “screams of hatred and incitement to violence, and an attempt to set the region on fire for political purposes.”
The United Arab List party leader added that “there is no doubt” that the purpose of the march’s organizers is “to challenge the new government and exhaust it in a series of explosive events in the near future.”
"End the Darkness!" - Jews and Arabs rally for coexistence
Thousands of Jews and Arabs march in Tel Aviv for peace, coexistence Protesters voiced support for the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and called on the government to take immediate action to reach peace with the Palestinians
By TOBIAS SIEGAL MAY 22, 2021
Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in a show of support for peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs amid two long weeks of intense violent riots waging across the country. Protesters also voiced support for the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that came into effect early Friday, calling on the government to take immediate action to end Israeli occupation in the West Bank and to reach peace with the Palestinians.
The mass march was organized by the "Standing Together" and "Breaking the Silence" movements. It left Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and made its way toward Habima Square. Speakers included well-known Israeli novelist and left-wing activist David Grossman, author ʻAwdah Bishārāt, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh and MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz). "I hear politicians and security officials speak about another round of fighting in a few months or years, while being blind to the 7 million Palestinians living between the [Jordan] river and the [Mediterranean] sea," Odeh said. "There are two peoples living here and both deserve the right for self-determination."
"These past few days have shown us how life in this country can look like - a nightmare," Zandberg added. "We don't want to start waiting for the next war, but to change direction toward peace - to live together in true partnership."
A similar protest took place last Saturday at Habima Square, which was one of several protests attended by Jews and Arabs across the country that called for peace and for coexistence amid the nationwide riots and the military operation in Gaza. Jews and Arabs gathered daily during Operation Guardians of the Walls on bridges and intersections along the country and protested against the ongoing violence. Also on Saturday, hundreds gathered outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, calling on Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and blaming him for the escalation in Gaza and claiming that he deliberately extended the operation for no reason but personal interest.
Earlier Saturday, about 200 people marched along the streets of the mixed city of Jaffa, voicing support for coexistence between Arabs and Jews while visiting small local businesses.
Thousands Join Tel Aviv Rally for 'A Joint Future' After Israel-Gaza Fighting, Jewish-Arab Violence
Author David Grossman, political leaders and activists call on Israel to go beyond a cease-fire in Gaza, while hundreds also gather outside Prime Minister Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem
May. 22, 2021
A pro-peace rally in central Tel Aviv on Saturday drew several thousand participants, calling for Jewish-Arab partnership and urging Israel to work toward resolving its decades-long conflict with the Palestinians, which flared up over the past two weeks with deadly fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Author David Grossman told the crowd at Habima Square: "We, Israelis, still refuse to realize the time is over in which our power can force a reality that's convenient for us and only for us, for our needs and interests."
Ayman Odeh, leader of the three-way Arab-majority Joint List, said in his speech that "War is only good for the warlords… for Benjamin Netanyahu, but it's bad for both peoples. There are civilians in Gaza and there are civilians in Israel, and we have to keep them out of the circle of terror."
Odeh called for "a joint future for us all," a sentiment seconded by another politician who spoke at the rally, Meretz's Tamar Zandberg.
Zandberg said at the rally: “It’s no coincidence that the violence broke out just when we began to feel that maybe Jews and Arabs can cooperate in politics too. Some people wanted to sabotage this vision, they wanted to continue sowing hatred and incitement and violence. But this evening and here, we are telling them – enough, no. Now too we can and must establish a different government in Israel that will not encourage hatred, will not incite, will not separate Jews and Arabs."
Members of the groups Standing Together and Breaking the Silence, which organized the rally, also spoke. Sally Abed, of Standing Together, said: “As a Palestinian citizen of Israel I refuse to go back to the routine of institutionalized discrimination, of police violence and political arrests, of limited citizenship. I refuse to go back to the routine in which on a train I’m afraid to answer a phone call from my mother in Arabic. Arabic is my language and it is one of the languages in this place, and I’m not willing to go back to a routine in which people are afraid to speak it.”
Ariel Bernstein, of Breaking the Silence, who served as a combat soldier in the reconnaissance unit of the Nahal Brigade, said: "For the past seven years since we lay in the sand dunes outside of Beit Hanun, and our leaders did nothing to move ahead a diplomatic solution. Seven years in which we’ve been offered nothing but despair, while we’ve been sold the illusion of normalcy. They demand that we bury our head in the sand and think that the current situation is fine and normal. But there is nothing normal about a military dictatorship, a suffocating blockade and apartheid in the territories."
Last Saturday night, a similar rally was held in Habima Square, which was part of the wave of demonstrations calling for coexistence and reconciliation held during the Gaza operation. Throughout the operation, rallies against violence and hatred were held in city squares, junctions and bridges all over the country.
Hundreds of people also gathered in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.
Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury - Ha'aretz
Dispel the darkness! Thousands of Jews, Arabs rally for coexistence
Dispel the darkness: Thousands of Jews, Arabs rally for coexistence in Tel Aviv
Demonstration, which also calls for two-state solution, comes after violent riots in mixed cities and Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza By SIMONA WEINGLASS
Israelis protest for calm and coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs in at HaBima square in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2021 (Miriam Alster/Flash90) Israelis protest for calm and coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs in at HaBima square in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2021 (Miriam Alster/Flash90) Thousands of people demonstrated in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling for Jewish and Arab coexistence and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The rally followed the 11-day conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, which sparked violent riots in Jewish-Arab cities within Israel, including communities long seen as models of coexistence. At least two Israelis were killed in the riots and several others were seriously injured by the mob violence.
Chanting “This is all of our homes,” “We stand together without hatred and without fear,” and “The answer to the Right is Israel and Palestine,” the demonstrators marched from Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to the Habima Theater Square. There, the crowd heard speeches from two of the organizers of the demonstration, Itamar Avnery and Sally Abed, as well as author David Grossman and Joint List leader Ayman Odeh.
Grossman lamented the recent war’s toll on children, Israeli and Palestinian.
“Allow me to dedicate my words this evening to the children of the Gaza border [communities in Israel] and to the children of Gaza,” he said.
“We are the hostages of the various extremists. We sit with mouths agape and watch how human beings become targets, how mothers lie on top of their children on the street to protect them, how multistory buildings fall like a house of cards and whole families disappear in the blink of an eye,” said Grossman, whose son was killed in Second Lebanon War in 2006 during his military service.
Sally Abed and Itamar Avnery spoke at a Jewish-Arab coexistence rally in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2021
Referring to the recent violence, Avnery, a Jewish Israeli, told the crowd to channel their feelings into activism.
“If the last two weeks were hard for you, if you felt despair, we are here to say, don’t despair, organize,” he said.
Sally Abed, who together with Avnery heads the organization “Omdim Beyachad” (We Stand Together), said Arabs and Jews should work together to create a more equal society.
“I am Sally, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. I refuse to return to the routine of institutional discrimination, of police violence and political arrests. I refuse to have second-class citizenship, and a racist government that is threatening all our lives for the benefit of an economic and settler elite. This government has no interest in serving our interests,” she said.
MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the predominantly Arab Joint List party in the Knesset, said the rally gave him hope.
“People are speaking about the darkness that is descending on this country,” he said. “ I see light. I see a strong light. Jews and Arabs together will dispel the darkness. You are the light.”
Odeh said that he does not accept the idea that nationalism is a zero-sum game.
“We do not accept the dichotomy of nationalism. Our path forward is together. Jews and Arabs together… There are two nations here. Both of them have a right to self-determination. Both deserve peace and equality. We respect the national identity of the Jews and the national identity of the Arabs, we respect both nations. We have a path forward,” he said.
‘Things can be different’ “We came to the demonstration to hear different voices from what is in the media, to see people who think like us,” said Vanessa, an Arab Israeli citizen who lives in Tel Aviv with her partner Issa.
Both Vanessa, who runs a clothing store and Issa, an engineering student at Tel Aviv University, are originally from Jaffa and said were shocked at the way police treated Arab residents of the city in recent days.
“We felt really helpless in the last two weeks. It hurt us to see the police against us, even though we are Israeli citizens,” said Vanessa.
“In Tel Aviv the police treat us with kid gloves, but in Jaffa they had their guns cocked,” said Issa, describing the behavior of the police as unprecedented.
“I think they were given an order from above,” he said.
Both said their greatest hope is for peace.
“I want to live in the now, not in the past. I want to live with my neighbor because he is my neighbor now and not dwell on the fact that my grandfather fought with his grandfather,” Issa said.
Vanessa added, “I don’t believe in the occupation. We need to end it so we can truly have peace between Israel and Palestine, because we’re not going anywhere and they’re not going anywhere.”
Saheil Biab, 65, of Nazareth said the last two weeks left him shaken.
“I was afraid that all the progress we made over decades was finished, the dream of the common struggle of Jews and Arabs for peace, equality and justice,” said Biab, a former deputy mayor of Nazareth and former head of the Equality Department in the Histadrut Labor Union.
Saheil Biab, former deputy mayor of Nazareth, demonstrates for Jewish-Arab coexistence in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2021 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel) “I was afraid that these fascist groups Lehava and Itamar Ben Gvir and La Familia would not let the two peoples coexist,” he said, referring to far-right Jewish activists involved in several of the violent riots.
Yonatan Hefetz, 36, a Jewish Israeli attended the demonstration with several friends who were alumni of the “Seeds of Peace” summer camp, which brings together Israeli and Arab teenagers at a camp in Maine.
He said he had been talking to friends in the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt over the last two weeks.
“We try to listen, there is a lot of anger. We try explain what is happening over here. I disagreed with some of the terms they were using like apartheid and ethnic cleansing. I think they’re using those words due to American influence. Those terms are coming from America.”
Jonathan Hefetz (r) and other alumni of the Seeds of Peace camp attend a demonstration for peaceful coexistence in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2021 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel) Hefetz said that conversations with his Arab friends outside Israel have been emotionally loaded and that many of them are extremely angry.
“All these emotions, they cloud your rationality,” he said. “This is not about citizens, this is all political. It’s a fight between Hamas and a right-wing Israeli government. We came here to show solidarity and show that things can be different,” he said.
Bibi and Gantz! End this unnecessary and pointless war!
We, residents of the Gaza Border Region, call on you to end our ongoing suffering and the inferno that you have unleashed on the people in the Gaza Strip.
This is not our war!
Sending Gaza back to the Stone Age - not in our name and not on our behalf.
To see (too many) Israelis celebrating the shedding of Gazan children' blood - not in our name, not for our security.
You are not 'Guardians of the Walls'. You continue to raise the walls of hate and despair.
Do what you should have done years ago - enter into negotiations with the enemy and reach long-term agreements.
It is possible. There is a need for real political desire. There is a need for determination and courage - the leaders - to break the old paradigms and to change direction. The ship is sinking and drowning all of us in a sea of deep and endless violence.
Gaza Border Region residents who can no longer contain this ongoing nightmare - happening on both sides of the border.
We send out a call to all organizations and people who identify with our message to join us and distribute this call far and wide.
For information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
054-7689181 / 08-6624447
The storm which Netanyahu enleashed
Adam Keller, May 12, 2021, 10pm
Yesterday morning (Tuesday) we woke up with the news of twenty one Palestinians killed in Gaza, nine of them minors, and two Israeli women killed in Ashkelon (one of them; it later turned out, was a migrant worker from India, and since then, the death toll on both sides more than doubled). Then came the email which I was expecting. Noa Levy of Hadash sent out an urgent call for emergency protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, A second message, from the Forum of Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families and Combatants for Peace, endorsed the Hadash call and added a Haifa protest venue initiated by the Haifa Women for Women Center. “The government is playing with fire - all of us get burned! In a desperate attempt to cling to power, Netanyahu is dragging us into war, into killing and suffering and pain for both peoples. Stop the escalation! Cease the fire! Stop the expulsion of families from Sheikh Jarrah, stop the police rampage in East Jerusalem. There can be no peace and no quiet as long as the West Bank lives under occupation and Gaza suffers a suffocating siege. The solution: an end to the occupation, an end to the siege of Gaza, and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital. We all deserve to live in freedom and security. The time to act is now!”
And so, there were several hours of frantic work at the computer and phone, spreading the message by Facebook and Whatsapp to all who waited for such a call on such a day. And then taking the bus to Tel Aviv. The Kugel Boulevard, main Holon thoroughfare on which all buses to Tel Aviv travel, had its completely normal daily bustle. On King George Street in Tel Aviv there were already several hundred people gathered outside the Likud Party headquarters. Among them familiar faces, the determined minority of Israelis who always show up on such days, as in 2014 and 2009.. “Stop the fire, stop the bloodshed!” chanted several hundred throats. And “On both sides of the border / Children want to live!” and “Sheikh Jarrah, don’t despair / We will end the occupation yet!” and also “Gaza, Gaza, don’t despair / We will end the siege yet!” and “Netanyahu, Netanyahu / The Dock at the Hague waits for you!”.
Dispersal, and a vague feeling of frustration. But what more could we have done? Perhaps we would have felt more satisfied to be violently dispersed and spend the night in detention - but here, unlike other locations, the police did not interfere with the demonstration. There were only two bored police officers watching from the side. Our favorite vegan eatery was nearby, so we went in. Everything was just like any other evening out in downtown Tel Aviv, it felt a bit strange to have life as usual while terrible things happen elsewhere.
The air raid alarms wailed just after we paid our bill and started walking. We went into a nearby big pharmacy. The pharmacy staff were quietly efficient – “Over here, turn left, the basement stairs are there”. About a hundred people – staff and clients and everyone who happened to be on the street – crowded in. Even in the basement, we could clearly hear the explosions in the sky. “Are these the missiles themselves, or the interceptors?” wondered an old woman. Another old woman said “Don’t worry, dear, if this goes on we will all learn to know which is which”.
After a quarter of an hour we thought it was over and everybody emerged and started again down the street – and then the air raid siren sounded again. This time we went into the basement of a private house with very friendly young people who offered to let us stay the night. “You can stay here, no need to risk going out again, we have spare beds”.
I must say that up to that point it still felt like a bit of a game. I realize now that we shared the arrogant illusion of most Israelis that the Iron Dome missiles were giving us virtually complete protection. But as we were huddling in the second basement of the evening, the phone rang: “Are you OK? Good to hear your voice, I heard of the burned bus in Holon, I was so worried!” “I am in Tel Aviv, what bus is that?” A quick look at the news websites showed the Kugel Boulevard where we had passed just three hours before. It was a war zone, flames and scattered debris everywhere, and the skeleton of a completely burned bus in the middle. It was reported that the driver heard the alarm, stopped the bus and told everybody to run just a minute before the bus was hit.
Perhaps we should have taken the young people’s offer and stayed the night with them. Getting back home was a long and weary experience. The main roads were blocked by the police, and we saw ambulances and fire trucks rushing forward. The bus from Tel Aviv let us off a long way from home and there were no taxis to be had in the whole of Holon, so there was a very long and weary trudging through dark empty streets.
At home I had a whatsapp exchange with an old friend. “Stay alert, this night is not yet over” she wrote. “The government is sure to order a strong retaliation for this attack on Tel Aviv, and the Palestinians will want to retaliate for the retaliation”. She was completely right. After 3.00 PM there was a very long series of alarms, one after the other. The explosions were more vague and seemed a long distance off. This time they were aiming at the Ben Gurion Airport.
One of the missiles had fallen on a hut in Lod (Lydda), and killed a fifty year old man and his teen daughter. It later turned out that they were Arabs, that they had lived in an “unrecognized” neighborhood where no building permits are issued, and that this prevented them from building a more solid structure which could have saved their lives.
And so here we are, with the conflict escalating and the death toll rising ever more steeply. And I should recapitulate, at least briefly, how we got to this.
Last Friday – just five days ago, though it seems like an eternity – public attention in Israel was totally riveted to the complicated dance of party politics. Prime Minister Netanyahu, facing three serious corruption charges at the Jerusalem District Court, had just failed in his efforts to form a new cabinet. The mandate passed to the oppositional “Block of Change”, whose leaders embarked on delicate negotiations aimed at forming a very heterogeneous government coalition comprising right-wing. left-wing and center parties, which have virtually nothing in common except the wish to see the last of Netanyahu. We had very mixed feelings about it, especially since the intended new Prime Minister Naftali Bennet is, if anything, more right-wing than Netanyahu. Still, the new government would have very strong mechanisms of “mutual veto” in place that would prevent Bennet from doing too much harm – though the same would also prevent the new government from doing much good, either. And this government would be the very first in Israeli history to rely on an Arab party for its parliamentary majority (other than the Rabin Government in 1995, whose tenure was cut short by the PM being assassinated).
Anyway, there were very concrete plans to have the new cabinet ready for parliamentary approval by Tuesday, May 11 (yesterday). The anti-corruption demonstrators who have been demonstrating every week outside the Prime Minister’s residence were joking about when the movers will arrive to take away the Netanyahu family furniture. But Netanyahu had other irons in the fire.
First, there was the planned expulsion of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarach neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Dozens of them were due to be expelled within days and extreme right settlers were going to enter into their vacated homes. Protests in Sheikh Jarach and elsewhere in East Jerusalem met brutal police repression. Then, protests spread to the Haram A Sharif (Temple Mount) compound, and so did the police repression. Police started to shoot “rubber” bullets directly into demonstrators’ faces, causing them to lose eyes – at least two of them losing both eyes and becoming blind for the rest of their lives. Footage of the police breaking into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site and a place considered even by secular Palestinians as a major part of their national heritage, spread widely through the social networks, escalating the protests. And then there was the plan to have thousands of radical young settlers hold the provocative “Dance of the Flags” right through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, chanting their habitual racist slogans. The police and government reiterated hour after hour that the “Dance of the Flags” would take place as scheduled. And it was then that Hamas in Gaza threatened to retaliate for the attack on the Palestinians of Jerusalem, and the government declared that it would not bend to “the ultimatums of terrorists”. And at the very last moment the “Dance” was cancelled – but it was too late. At 6.00 PM the salvo of seven Hamas rockets at the outskirts of Jerusalem – which in fact caused no casualties or damage, but which precipitated the Israeli deadly retaliation on Gaza. .
And now, a bit more than 48 hours later, here we are, in the midst of an escalating war, the Israeli Air Force destroying high rise buildings in Gaza and proudly announcing the “elimination” of senior Hamas activists – but unable to hinder the Palestinians’ ability to go on shooting rockets. And relations between Jews and Arabs, fellow citizens of Israel, have descended to unprecedented depths of inter-communal violence. In Lod, the police declared a night curfew “to stop the rampaging Arabs” but Arab inhabitants refuse to abide and are involved in violent confrontations with police around a local mosque. And in Bat Yam and Tiberias, mobs of extreme right Jews are assaulting random Arabs and smashing up Arab-owned shops. And repeated again and again in the media is the government's total refusal to make a ceasefire. “No, no, no ceasefire – we must teach Hamas a lesson!”
Of course no ceasefire. Why should Netanyahu want a ceasefire? Every day in which the shooting continues is one more day of keeping that dreaded movers’ truck away from the Prime Minister’s Residence, one more day of keeping power in his own hands. If there was concrete proof that Netanyahu did it all consciously and deliberately, it would make up criminal charges far more serious than those he is facing at the District Court of Jerusalem. But any such evidence is probably classified Top Secret and would only be published fifty years from now. So, we can’t prove that he did it deliberately, though there can be little doubt about it. We can only end the war and immediately afterwards get rid of him.
Perhaps what is happening now will shake President Biden out of the attitude of keeping a low profile on Israel and the Palestinians? After all, all this mess had fallen on his desk with quite a loud clatter.
Well, there are several alarms every day or night and we run to the staircase and all our neighbors are also there, we live on the fourth floor and there are three apartments on each floor, so people from 12 apartments go into the staircase. There are known cases from the Second World War that when a house was hit by a bomb and everything collapsed but the staircase remained standing, so this is the safest place. We know that the chance of one missile hitting exactly our house is very small, but if it happens than for those where it hits it is a 100% danger. So the neighbors are a bit nervous and a bit angry and grumbling, especially if the alarm came in the middle of the night, but some are also joking. Some of them make nasty remarks about the Arabs. In normal circumstances I would react when I hear somebody saying such things, but now with my neighbors in the staircase I don't. I feel a bit of a coward for that. But I know that if I do this it could start a very nasty emotional debate. They would feel that there is an enemy who wants to kill all of us and that I am on the side of this enemy. It would be very human to feel like that. My neighbors are essentially good decent people even when they share prejudices which are common in the Israeli society. I would prefer not to have a deep emotional quarrel with them, which might last long after this stupid war is over.
The government still says "No ceasefire, we still did not hit all the targets we wanted in Gaza".
The most worrying is the inter-communal violence. Arabs attacking any Jew they meet and Jews attacking any Arab they meet. Only a small number of people are doing this on either side but the damage is huge. Of course it is not a symmetrical situation. Arabs burst out in violence because they feel discriminated and oppressed. Jews burst out in violence because they feel their privileged position is threatened. But the result is very nasty in either direction. And this might continue long after the missiles stop flying.
I don't think there was anything so deep in any recent times. It is more like the time before Israel was created, when there were two mutually antagonistic communities living under the Ottomans and then the British. That is how the conflict started, exactly a hundred years ago, in 1920 and 1921 and 1929. Something stirred up the passions and people started attacking and killing each other. It did not get that bad so far, " only" one person was killed, though several were severely wounded.
Just now came a message of an emergency demo of Jews and Arabs against hatred and for equality and peace. Must stop this now and pass on this message by mail and Facebook and whatsapp. Will come back later.
The message got to me at the last moment, too late to get there myself. It is going on right now. I got it indirectly from a friend who got it from a friend. I will try to locate the original organizers and ask them to let me know when they initiate something. I sent a message to the Hebrew email list "Joint demo today 6.30 PM Habima Sq. Tel Aviv, Jews and Arabs together call for an end to hatred and violence, for peace and equality to everybody". I apologized for short notice and said those unable to come today will unfortunately get many more reasons and opportunities to demonstrate.
Anyway, Beate and me have a long habit to listen to Classical Music for half an hour before we go to sleep while eating melon or watermelon. Yesterday Beate did not want to do it, she felt that being alert for the siren spoiled the music. But tonight we went back to it. We now listen to Mozart. Much more pleasant than listening to the news.
Early morning. There was in Gaza the worst attack so far, using 160 airplanes at once and also tanks and artillery (which is inaccurate, even if they try artillery can't avoid hitting unarmed civilians) About 20 people were killed in Gaza tonight. There must have been terrible things happening there tonight though most of the Israeli media will never report it.
It seems they were trying to destroy Palestinian tunnels. They either did or did not. It certainly destroyed the houses which were on the ground above the supposed tunnels.
On the Israeli side there was an intensive attack on the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, about a hundred rockets at once. People there could not sleep the night though no one was killed directly. "Only" an 87 year old woman was killed when she fell down while running to the air raid shelter and one 50 year old man was severely wounded.
I feel ashamed of having had such a calm undisturbed sleep. Beate could not sleep most of the night, even though there were no alarms here.
Many Israelis in the South are escaping and trying to find more quiet places until this will end, which is the sensible thing to do. To be sure, Gazans would like to do the same, but where in the Strip could they find a safe place?
At least it seems that it comes near to the end. There was some negotiations between the Americans and the Chinese on when will the Security Council meet - the Chinese wanted today, the Americans next Tuesday, in the end they agreed on Sunday - two days from now. This should be at least be the beginning of the end of the madness. But for some people who are still alive at this moment it will be too late.
The death toll in Gaza is now 109. About 40 women and children among them.
Netanyahu can now afford to end it. His most important aim was achieved - no alternative government is going to be formed. He will remain PM for the time being and likely we go to new elections in September. At least we will not have to have Naftali Bennet who was going to be the new Prime Minister. He is at least as right wing as Netanyahu and the only thing for him was that he is not Netanyahu. Bennet's party was disintegrating. His constituency are very nationalistic people, they just did not want to see him go into a government coalition with "Leftists and Arabs", not in this inflammatory situation. So, RIP Alternative Government, it would not have survived very long anyway.
Perhaps after the September elections we will get rid of Netanyahu and get somebody reasonably decent in his place. Or Netanyahu might win the elections, who can tell? In Israeli politics, several months are several eternities.
At least there were more actions of Jews and Arabs standing together against hatred, widely scattered in various places. More are scheduled for today and tomorrow. In one junction in the north there were Arabs giving flowers to any passing motorist.
But still very many acts of inter-communal violence . The police is warning drivers not to use the GPS system because it might lead you to dangerous places, i.e. to a community of an ethnic group which might prove hostile. A Jewish family, father, mother and three children were attacked when the GPS led them into Umm El Fahm. They suffered intensive stone throwing but fortunately other Arabs helped them get out. The friendly Arabs later found the family dog who got lost in the fracas and restored him to the family.
I think I go back to bed to get some more sleep, Keep in touch.
The second night without any alarms. The attacks are now concentrated on the South. The people there had a very restless night with ongoing alarms. A man interviewed on TV said that his daughter was taking a shower when the alarm came and she came running out naked and a minute later the shower was broken into pieces by bomb fragments.
Of course, that is absolutely nothing compared with what the people in Gaza are suffering. In this operation of Thursday night 450 bombs, each weighing a tonne, were dropped on a small piece of land in an effort to destroy the Hamas tunnels underground. It seems that was the most intense bombardment that the Israeli Air Force ever did, more than in any earlier war in Gaza or Lebanon. And of course, the buildings which were above the tunnels were totally destroyed. They can claim that the tunnels were a legitimate military target and the destroyed buildings were a "collateral damage" but I am not sure the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which is watching closely this Gaza war, will see it this way. Many people escaped from this area, it seems the army did give them a warning, but still the number of "only" twenty people killed seems very low. This is of course counting only the number killed above the ground, not how many people were in the tunnels which collapsed. (Note: On the following day it turned out that the army hoped to catch hundreds of Hamas militants underground, but was greatly disappointed).
Whatever happened in the tunnels, it seems a whole area of in the north of Gaza City was destroyed. It will take years to rebuild, even if Israel lets building materials come into the Strip - which it might not. They would say that Hamas will use the materials to rebuild the tunnels and make them deeper and more solid (which they probably would). Some of the building destroyed in 2014 were not yet repaired.
The army does not think in terms of a complete victory, just of buying time and then preparing for the next war five or ten years from now. Anyway, it seems that they make a kind of implicit condition to Hamas (or perhaps it is explicit, passed in via the Egyptians) that if they now retaliate against Tel Aviv the war would last longer but if they confine the retaliation to Southern Israel there will be a ceasefire within a few days. So I am in the situation of being privileged, living again my comfortable normal daily life while so many others have their lives very much disrupted - the Gazans in a very terrible way and the Israelis in the South in a far less terrible but still nasty way.
Meanwhile, nine Palestinians were killed yesterday on the West Bank in demonstrations and confrontations with the army, and the funerals today will turn into demonstrations and might lead to more people being killed... This might be the beginning of the Third Intifada. And if so, it might be better that the Alternative Government which was nearly formed last week was aborted and Netanyahu remains Prime Minister. Let him deal with daily repression on the West bank, not a new government which was going to be headed by the right-winger Naftali Bennet but with left-wing parties having portfolios and sharing responsibility for government policies.
A more light weight moment in this nasty time. In the TV report from the town of Sderot near the Gaza border a child, I think six or seven years old, was seen collecting fragments of the rockets which fell on the town. He wanted to build a rocket of his own. The TV reporter asked him how many fragments he wanted to have and the child said "Twenty". The reporter asked him if that would be enough for a rocket and the child said "At least a small one".
At the Haram A Sharif / Temple Mount Compound in Jerusalem, young Palestinians collected tear gas canisters which were shot by the police and made of them a model of the al-Aqsa Mosque. That is the same impulse as the Israeli child - to take possession of the weapons which your enemy used against you and make them yours.
I told you how during the alarm I avoided political debate with my neighbors. But it happened anyway on the tenants WhatsApp group. There is a man named Meir who is the volunteer taking care of the building maintenance and calling a plumber if something goes wrong etc. and collecting from the tenants the monthly maintenance payments - a lot of work and he does it very well. I always knew he was right-wing and he knew I was left-wing but we hardly ever spoke of politics..But now he placed on the tenant WhatsAapp group a very inflammatory call which was circulating widely on the net, to boycott all Arab businesses because "the Arabs showed themselves on the side of the enemy and supporting terrorists". I felt I had to react to this and I tried to be mild and non-confrontational but still he reacted with a tirade about that his late father lost an eye in a confrontation with Muslims in Morocco and that he came to Zionist Israel to have a good safe life and he lived in Jaffa among Arabs and had good relations with them but now they behave nasty and are ungrateful for the good things Israel did for them so we Jews should punish and boycott them and “hit them in the pocket”. He also said that the son of his wife from her earlier marriage was killed years ago as a soldier in Gaza. I know him and his wife (a very nice friendly woman) for many years but I never knew that.
I wrote back in the WhatsApp group, and I told of what I heard from my sister who lives in the Galilee in an area with many Arab villages and she and her husband are every day driving among these villages. They were worried about the tense situation but what happened was that at the junction there were Arabs with a basket full of flowers and they gave a flower to every passing driver. I told this to Meir and said that we and the Arabs would go on living in one country, we have no choice about that, but that we have a choice about how we live and how we behave to each other. Also that he and me will go on living in the same building and I hope we can go on being good neighbors as we had until now. He did not react further, I hope I did get to him at least a bit. Today there are going to be all over the country demonstrations of Jews and Arabs together, with the slogan."We stand together against racism and hatred".
Alarm two minutes ago. Very prolonged alarm and one of the explosions was very nearby. Meir was not there in the staircase though his wife was, she was talking in Russian with other neighbors. They are a curious couple, he is from Morocco and she from Russia, he is very fat and heavy and she very thin and delicate, but they seem a very harmonious couple. Rivka, who lives one floor below us, said : "Whatever we do to them, they still continue!". She was of course very angry with the Palestinians, but I felt there was a kind of grudging admiration. What this means is if the price of a quick ceasefire is for Hamas to show itself intimidated, they are not willing to pay the price.
There were two more alarms soon after the first. Since then, nothing more in our part of the country though it continues in the south. But they might do it again in the evening. After the third alarm we went back to our interrupted meal and could still worry about whether the new avocado which we started would be good or over-ripe. (It was over-ripe). Of course, during all the wars in history people continued their daily life, how else?
There were some interesting exchanges during the second and third alarm. Rivka said: "For a hundred years they are trying to return here. Don't they understand we will never let them?". I said to her "They just want to have their own state". She said "They have twenty Arab states to go to, we have only the one Jewish state!". I could have tried to explain why the Palestinians don't really feel at home in the Arab countries but it would have been futile. Beate said to her "Their missiles might be better next time", to convey that Israel might not always have military superiority. Rivka did not respond to that. Meir burst out "I wish we had Sharon back, he would have just smashed them and not cared what the world said!". Of course Meir was thinking of the old Sharon who smashed into Lebanon in 1982. He seems to have wiped from his memory that in 2005 it was Sharon who had pulled the army out of the Gaza Strip. Then Meir said "I used to go to an Arab restaurant every Saturday, but now I will never go there again. Never!". But I think that in a few months from now things will calm down, an