Gideon Levy Israeli Protesters Must Remain in Tents Until Time Is Right

The night I was proud to be an Israeli.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

It was the night that Benjamin Netanyahu was tossed out of the Prime Minister's Office in disgrace.

Netanyahu will stay in office for a time, but his time is up. Finished. He will squirm and make promises, make declarations and turn tail, he will trot out a few more tricks, but it won't help him an iota.

Protest tents line Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.Credit: Motti Kimchi

As of yesterday, he is a lame duck. Last night, Israel's 17th prime minister was handed his walking papers. When tens of thousands of Israelis across the country scream, "Bibi go home," Bibi will indeed go home. Bye bye, Bibi, good-bye for good.

It was the night that every Israeli can and should be proud of being Israeli, as never before. Israel's true pride march took place yesterday. There can be no better public relations campaign for this despised, shunned country than the demonstration last night of this new Israel. The Foreign Ministry should broadcast the images to the entire world. Israeli democracy celebrated last night as it has not done in years, standing up against all those who would see it fall. Without violence, without superfluous police reinforcements, not Cairo nor even Athens, but something much more beautiful - a genuine light unto the nations.

The people had its say, speaking with a loud voice; with neither fear nor cause for fear - tahrir, freedom, but no gunfire. Speaking? Nay, shouting. Yes, last night I was very proud to be an Israeli. I felt embarrassed only at my inability to whistle with two fingers, like the masses that marched down Ibn Gvirol Street whistling in derision and at earsplitting volume, rocking the walls of Goocha, whose patrons went on eating their seafood as though nothing unusual was happening. Had I known how, I too would have whistled.

There has never before been such a demonstration in Israel - everyone together, young and old, right and left, Arabs and Jews. The state that was created at the (old ) Tel Aviv Museum last night demonstrated its robustness and maturity in front of the current Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Between these museums lie 63 years of ups and downs. Last night was the ultimate high water mark. Last night was also, apparently, the biggest demonstration ever, bar the one after Sabra and Shatila.

The protests went up a notch last night. Chants about high rents were rare. "The people demand social justice," was the most common, followed by "Hoo ha, mi zeh ba? Medinat harevaha" (Who's that coming? It's the welfare state ). Socialism, today? Yes, with choked throats and emotional tones. The protest took flight last night. Forget the housing protest, it's no longer alone. Those who feared that the protest was too narrow, too spoiled, yesterday watched it expand. Its goals are already way beyond a small rented apartment.

Those who grimaced at the mini-Woodstock on Rothschild must now recognize that this boulevard is only the launching pad for an explosion of a movement, the most impressive protest movement in Israeli history.

The cynics should be ashamed of themselves. Anyone who was out on the streets last night could only be moved emotionally - and if not, then they should be ashamed. When I stepped on the toes of an innocent passerby, a religious man, he spat, "This isn't social justice." Had anybody even heard the term before all this began?

The soundtrack of last week's demonstration included John Lennon, but last night Janis Joplin was added - another way of going up a notch. Corinne Alal's "Zan Nadir" was also played last night: "We're afraid of our own shadow, clinging to the walls of the buildings, and most of the time are ashamed of our bodies, digging bomb shelters ... We're a rare species, a strange bird, dreams in the air and head in the ground." Last night, the dreams were in the air, and what air! Last night I was so proud to be an Israeli



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