NEW YORK – A few dozen Israelis living in New York City held an anti-Netanyahu rally in Washington Square Park on Sunday in solidarity with the protests in Israel.
“I think in normal times I would be in Israel, but times are not normal,” Kobi Cohen, one of the organizers, told Haaretz.
Many of the 70 people at the protest held signs in English and Hebrew that read “Crime Minister”, “BB let my people go’’ and “Standing for Israel’s democracy.”
Protests in demand that Netanyahu resign have ramped up in Israel this summer and have spread from several dozen activists urging his ouster over corruption charges, to mass rallies fueled by the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accusations of Netanyahu’s mismanagement of the issue.
“What is happening right now in Israel is historic. We might not be living in Israel but our hearts are there,” Cohen said.
Among the protesters were families with children.
Omer Reshef and his wife Dana Chermesh Reshef had come to show their support with their three children, all wearing masks.
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“We came to express solidarity with our brave friends and family that are taking to the streets,” Reshef said. “For better or worse we don’t feel less Israeli since we moved here.”
Chermesh Reshef added that over the past few months as the coronavirus crisis made it impossible to see family in Israel, she has felt her heart has been “torn apart” but with the protest, the feeling has only strengthened.
“Most of the time we feel frustration over how little we can really do from here, so when we have an opportunity like this, to come here and to give the kids an opportunity to be exposed to values of democracy and activism, we take it,” she said.
“Of course, we wouldn’t have taken them to a dangerous protest, but when there is something like this where we can express solidarity with Israel and show them, not just on TV or on the phone what is happening in Israel, it strengthens those values.”
The Israeli ex-pats remained for about an hour. Some of them chanted “Bibi to prison” and sang the Israeli Shir Lashalom [a song for peace].
“Sadly, it’s natural for me to be here,” Roni Livnat, who has lived in New York for two and a half years, told Haaretz from behind her mask. “We have to, there is nothing else we can do.”
As all of her family is protesting in Israel, Livnat felt she was “missing out” and wanted to do her part from abroad.
“I think every Israeli abroad with common sense who wants to have a home to go back to afterwards, to be proud of, must come out and say something because that’s all we can do,” she said.
“As time passes, I feel like our limits are pushed and pushed and we can’t even see where we used to be anymore,” she said. She expressed concern about the future of Israeli democracy, but said the protests in Israel give her “a lot of hope”.
On Friday, some 150 Israeli ex-pats also gathered by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco to show their support for the protesters in Israel. Other demonstrations are planned across the United States and Europe in the coming days as well.
“We are trying to expand the circle of Israelis abroad who support what is happening in Israel, who love the country but are hurt by what is happening to Israeli democracy,” Cohen said.
He added that the organizers have been getting a lot of pushback from Israelis who support Netanyahu in New York and in Israel. Some insisted they don’t have the right to an opinion because they don’t live in Israel.
“It’s very amusing to me because if I had done a rally to support Netanyahu then people would be saying ‘good job’. It’s all a matter of perspective,” Cohen said. “We are here, and they should listen to us as well.”