Protesters against U.S. President Donald Trump held two in-tandem rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, each with some 300 demonstrators, on Monday evening.
As befitting the two different cities, the demonstrations were different in tone and style, but both carried the same message.
“We are here tonight to show Trump and the world that not everyone in Israel loves the president,” Pantsuit Nation Israel leader, Rachel Canar, told an energetic crowd in Tel Aviv.
Pantsuit Nation Israel is the grassroots, local spin-off of the American and international groups that supported Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign and were prominent in organizing the “Resistance” marches in January 2017. Along with Pantsuit Nation, the Tel Aviv demonstration was organized by Democrats Abroad, Israel and Green Course, an environmental volunteer organization.
The rally was held opposite the back entrance to the U.S. embassy in Tel Avivat sunset, as runners and dog-walkers passed by. Organizers kept the crowd energized with catchy slogans. “Show me what democracy looks like!” they called into bullhorns. “This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd energetically responded.
Most of the speeches focused on American themes. “Issues of concern to Americans are of concern to all Americans wherever they live,” declared Heather Stone, Chair of Democrats Abroad, Israel, and reminded the crowd “to be sure to register to vote — and to vote.”
The Tel Aviv demonstration was carefully monitored by Democrats Abroad, which is a constituent group of the Democratic National Party (DNC). Newly-elected international chair, Julia Bryan, told Haaretz in a telephone interview that Democrats Abroad views local demonstrations as “strategic, as we gear up for the 2018 congressional elections.” According to Bryan, some nine million Americans reside overseas, and some six and a half million of them are eligible to vote. “These numbers could really make the difference in future elections,” she said. Democrats Abroad supports its local country committees with tools such as online phone banking systems. Democrats Abroad did not contribute any direct funding to the Tel Aviv demonstration, she said.
Canar told the Tel Aviv crowd that she had not been active in American politic since coming to Israel more than a decade ago, but with the election of Trump, she has been “overwhelmed with a feeling of American patriotism. Watching someone dismantle American democracy, degrade the rule of law and erode the values of diversity has made me realize that we cannot take these for grantedI feel as if we are on the verge of losing the America we all hold so dear. We cannot sit by,” she said.
Two hours later, the Jerusalem demonstration took place across from the American Consulate. The Almagor Terror Victims’ organization set up a protest exhibit in front of the demonstration, including chairs with the names of victims of terror and empty chairs to symbolize “future victims.” The police, however, prevented any actual counter-demonstrations.
The Jerusalem anti-Trump demonstration was organized by Jacob Fortinsky, a 19-year -old American student from New York, currently on gap year at the Hartman Institute, who will be attending Harvard College next year. He published the event on Facebook, and was provided with logistical support by Pantsuit Nation, Israel.
Elana Sztokman, vice chair for media and policy of Democrats Abroad–Israel, and a founding member of Pantsuit Nation Israel, told the enthusiastic crowd, “Fear and hate do not make America great. Openness, tolerance, compassion, empathy, these are the values that make a nation great. These are the values that good policies are built on. We are here to say no to fear and hate, and yes to American democracy. Not just for Americans but for the whole world. Including Israel.”
Most of the speeches at the Jerusalem rally drew on Jewish themes to underscore their anti-Trump messages.
“We are here to show the world that Israelis, Zionists, and Jews do not unanimously back Trump and that it is well within Jewish tradition to stand up to oppression and speak truth to power,” said rally organizer Fortinsky. Citing Isaiah, he concluded, “As our prophet says, 'For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.'"
Leon Wiener-Dow, a teacher at the Hartman Institute, a Jerusalem-based teaching and research facility, told the crowd that, “Since coming to the United States in 1992, in 12 successive U.S. elections, I opted out of my right to vote out of principle, because I no longer live in the United States. But in 2016, I felt compelled to cast my vote against Donald Trump.I do not understand how a Jew could support him: It requires abandoning our commitment to truth, and of our animating passion for justice”
Rabbi Susan Silverman, the last speaker, began with the blessing for the Omer, the traditional ritual counting of the days, and the suddenly-quiet crowd responded with Amen. “As Americans, as Israelis, we have a special obligation to resist Trump, to resist the sacrifice of the most vulnerable among us on the altars of politics and bigotry and greed," she continued as the crowd cheered. "God has given us the words of the prophets, the paradigms of justice, and the wisdom and strength to live by them.”
Both demonstrations dispersed without incident.