Members of the Breaking the Silence NGO arrived on Tuesday at the Tel-Hai Academic College in northern Israel (near Kibbutz Kfar Giladi and north of Kiryat Shmona) to speak, and were shocked to find hundreds of locals who came with the stated purpose of disturbing their performance and keeping them from talking, NewsHaifaKrayot.net reported. The hostile—but jovial—crowd came armed with whistles, flags and very healthy lungs, motivated not so much by patriotism, at least initially, but by a promise from pizzeria owner Eran Bitton, who offered a free pizza to every individual who would help prevent the Breaking the Silence show using non-violent means.
A few days ago, Tel-Hai students learned that the Breaking the Silence people were booked to speak on campus. Many students expressed their displeasure at the fact that the group, that had received harsh criticism from many—not for exposing problems in the IDF, but for turning them into anti-Semitic fodder in foreign countries—were allowed to speak at the college. Several student cells began to organize around protesting the lecture, which was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Dept. of Sociology.
Soon enough, the fact that Breaking the Silence were in the neighborhood reached residents in communities around the college, one of whom was Eran Bitton, proud owner of Vespa Pizza. Bitton has a reputation up north as the guy who every weekend brings free pizzas to soldiers in the nearby IDF bases. So Bitton arrived at the college to attend the protest, but was aching to do more. He told NewsHaifaKrayot.net: “I got there about an hour and a half before the lecture, and saw that only a few dozen students had come to protest against holding the lecture. I decided that a demonstration against someone who harms us as a country and our soldiers needs to have a lot more people. I wanted the folks to keep them from talking and bashing the name of our soldiers—so then I posted a status on Facebook that whoever comes to college and tries to disturb the Breaking the Silence people will receive a free pizza from me.”
Bitton really had no idea the response would be so big. Slowly, more and more students and hundreds of residents from the area began arriving, many of them armed with whistles and Israeli flags. In the end, more than five hundred people arrived at Tel-Hai College to protest and demonstrate against Breaking the Silence. And Bitton and his pizzeria kept their word.
“We handed out dozens of trays of pizza for free to all who came to protest and demonstrate. Our goal was to show them up. Police officers came to secure the lecture, allowing them to enter the auditorium, but dozens of guys from the college came in with their whistles and wouldn’t let them talk. As far as we’re concerned, we have achieved our goal,” Bitton said.
As to the dozens of pizza boxes Bitton and his pizzeria distributed Tuesday, he said with satisfaction: “For me it was a mitzvah. I don’t mind the cost.”