This past Motzei Shabbat, I went to a dual demonstration – “pro” and “anti” – outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Netanyahu. I asked one of my sons to drive me to the crowd of “anti” demonstrators so I could get a close look at it.
The song “Aquarius” from the Broadway musical “Hair” filled the air, immediately reminding me of protests I had joined in Wa shington Square Park in Greenwich Village, when we – the students of NYU – shut down the university in protest against the Vietnam War.
Now, half a century later in Israel, protesters were jamming the broad intersection outside the Kings Hotel. Most of them were young people dressed like the hippies of yore with headbands and paint on their faces, looking as if they had been bused in to the Holy City from Tel Aviv. Frankly, although I heard many curses and threats directed at Bibi, I had a hard time discerning what the protest was about.
With Tel Aviv nightclubs and discotheques closed, it seemed like the crowd had gathered just to vent pent-up frustrations and have a fun time. If the hooters and shouters had come to decry the government’s sloppy handling of the corona epidemic, it seemed odd that many of them weren’t safety masks or keeping a safe distance away from each other.
And if the thousand or so crazies had invaded the quiet streets of Jerusalem to protest the country’s economic tailspin, why did the crowd comprise mostly scantily dressed, vagabond-types who didn’t look like they had worked a day in their lives?
I kept to the periphery of the crowd, as if standing on a bank of the Amazon River in an area infested with piranhas. The macabre, Fellini-like scene looked more like a wild and drunken Mardi Gras then a serious demonstration, with people made up to resemble monsters and ghouls and dancers in white shrouds performing a ballet of death.
The black flags they carried could have been against just about anything. Some protesters held signs reading, “Crime Minister” up in front of journalists, dramatically posing for photos. By the police barricades, a contingent of crazies jeered at the stone-faced police, who had obviously been ordered to keep calm and allow the horde to freely voice their complaints.
Behind the frontline of mockers, a motley but energetic mob made a lot of commotion with an assortment of noisemakers that triggered a chorus of complaints from the residents of nearby buildings.
“What are you doing here?” I asked a heavily-tattooed fellow who was holding a sign that the organizers of the protest had prepared in advance.
“We’ve come to protest against Netanyahu.”
“About everything. He let the corona get out of control so he could stay in power and track everybody with the Shabak. He let the economy [tank] so he can funnel all the money to his bank accounts in Switzerland and his friends in high places.”
A girl, no-less tattooed, who was standing beside him cut in, “Young people can’t afford to buy an apartment. We don’t have work. If I could find an airline still flying, I’d leave this [terrible] county and go live in Berlin.”
Flashing my press card, I passed through a narrow opening in the police fence and walked through no-man’s land toward the much smaller crowd of demonstrators who had gathered to express their support for Bibi.
A police unit mounted on giant horses waited patiently, ready if needed to charge into the crowd. A few water trucks with canons, poised for battle like tanks, were parked down the street, their motors idling.
Most of the people on this side of the demonstration were faithful Likudniks or young people from the dati-leumi community. Israeli flags waved in the air as if to drive the black flags away. Flattering posters of Bibi were raised aloft in front of a far smaller number of photographers and TV crews.
Spotting Meir Indor, I approached him to get his take on the evening. In addition to being a political columnist for Israel Hayom, Indor has a long record of public service as an officer fighting against terror cells in Gaza and the founder of the settlement of Atzmona, the Hevron Fund, and the Almagor Terror Victims Association.
“The recent demonstrations of the radical left are not spontaneous grassroots protests against the economic situation and the second outbreak of corona,” he told me. “That’s a myth that the leftist media seeks to create to disguise the fact that the anarchism we are witnessing is a part of the carefully-planned strategy of the worldwide leftist elite to transform Israel into a nation like all nations, stripped of our heritage and holy mission to bring the light of Torah morality and justice into the world.”
Aren’t they raising important issues like economic stability for the poor, housing opportunity for the young, and the right of artists to work and make a living? I asked him.
“It is all empty slogans to topple Bibi,” he replied. “That is their one and only goal. For the past few years, it was champagne and cigars. Now it’s corona and unemployment. They will grasp at anything. What does corona and unemployment have to do with Bibi? The epidemic and economic chaos is happening all over the world. Is the virus in France and America the fault of Netanyahu as well? That’s absurd!”
I offered that the left has the right to demonstrate for what they believe in.
“Today, the left doesn’t believe in anything,” he said in response. “They are not like the socialists of old who at least cherished Zionism and who championed the value of working the land and building the country. Across the way, guarded by the police, are a mob of anarchists no different from the rioters in America, who riot and wreak havoc for the sacred sake of wreaking havoc.
“At the last demonstration, I strolled through the crowd and recognized agitators who staged protests against Israeli soldiers in Hevron and Samaria. They are a band of paid mercenaries. Their strategy is political terror. In a time of national emergency, in the national battle against the corona epidemic, their protests should be outlawed.
“How much do they really care about our country and the people of Israel when they mass together without masks not concerned in the least that they themselves are responsible for spreading the virus and multiplying its deadly effects?
“Since their protests began, 150 policemen have been stricken with the disease. Who knows how many of their friends and family members have been infected by them? And then they have the gall to blame Bibi, and the charedim, and the settlers, and all other groups that they hate. It’s a disgrace that our police and the court system of Medinat Yisrael allow them to endanger the health of the public the way that they do.”
I asked someone with access to Yair Netanyahu, sson of the prime minister, to get his reaction since he has expressed concern for his life and the safety of his family due to the cries of murder repeatedly sounded at the protests.
“For 2,000 years, the Jewish nation remembers the gratuitous hatred of Bar Kamtza who brought about the destruction of Jerusalem,” he said. “Two-thousand years from now, people will remember the hate-filled witch hunt of Mandelblit, the judges of Supreme Court, and all of these lefty anarchists who did everything they could to take over the country in a blatantly undemocratic fashion, ignoring the elections and the will of the majority of the nation.
“Demonstrators who ridicule the symbols of the medinah and get paid for it by the multi-millionaire leftist pedophiles who hang out with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and the organizations he backed are threatening all of the Zionist and Jewish values of our country. And they won’t stop at anything to get their way.”