A pro-peace rally in central Tel Aviv on Saturday drew several thousand participants, calling for Jewish-Arab partnership and urging Israel to work toward resolving its decades-long conflict with the Palestinians, which flared up over the past two weeks with deadly fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Author David Grossman told the crowd at Habima Square: "We, Israelis, still refuse to realize the time is over in which our power can force a reality that's convenient for us and only for us, for our needs and interests."
Ayman Odeh, leader of the three-way Arab-majority Joint List, said in his speech that "War is only good for the warlords… for Benjamin Netanyahu, but it's bad for both peoples. There are civilians in Gaza and there are civilians in Israel, and we have to keep them out of the circle of terror."
Odeh called for "a joint future for us all," a sentiment seconded by another politician who spoke at the rally, Meretz's Tamar Zandberg.
Zandberg said at the rally: “It’s no coincidence that the violence broke out just when we began to feel that maybe Jews and Arabs can cooperate in politics too. Some people wanted to sabotage this vision, they wanted to continue sowing hatred and incitement and violence. But this evening and here, we are telling them – enough, no. Now too we can and must establish a different government in Israel that will not encourage hatred, will not incite, will not separate Jews and Arabs."
Members of the groups Standing Together and Breaking the Silence, which organized the rally, also spoke. Sally Abed, of Standing Together, said: “As a Palestinian citizen of Israel I refuse to go back to the routine of institutionalized discrimination, of police violence and political arrests, of limited citizenship. I refuse to go back to the routine in which on a train I’m afraid to answer a phone call from my mother in Arabic. Arabic is my language and it is one of the languages in this place, and I’m not willing to go back to a routine in which people are afraid to speak it.”
Ariel Bernstein, of Breaking the Silence, who served as a combat soldier in the reconnaissance unit of the Nahal Brigade, said: "For the past seven years since we lay in the sand dunes outside of Beit Hanun, and our leaders did nothing to move ahead a diplomatic solution. Seven years in which we’ve been offered nothing but despair, while we’ve been sold the illusion of normalcy. They demand that we bury our head in the sand and think that the current situation is fine and normal. But there is nothing normal about a military dictatorship, a suffocating blockade and apartheid in the territories."
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Last Saturday night, a similar rally was held in Habima Square, which was part of the wave of demonstrations calling for coexistence and reconciliation held during the Gaza operation. Throughout the operation, rallies against violence and hatred were held in city squares, junctions and bridges all over the country.
Hundreds of people also gathered in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.