Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv last night to express solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington.
Carrying banners with slogans bashing new U.S. President Donald Trump, demonstrators chanted protests in Hebrew and English, interspersed with songs. Most of the protesters were Israeli Americans, but many native Israelis could also be found among the crowd.
The event also attracted anti-occupation and gay rights activists.
Some of the banners featured slogans attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No disturbances were recorded.
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Three groups teamed up to organize the event: Pantsuit Nation Israel (the local branch of a grass-roots organization of women who supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the last election, and whose title was inspired by her outfit of choice) and two Diaspora anti-occupation groups, IfNotNow and All That’s Left.
The Tel Aviv rally was one of hundreds taking place around the world yesterday to coincide with the Washington march.
Among the speakers at the Tel Aviv protest was Simone Zimmerman, who served very briefly as Bernie Sanders’ Jewish outreach coordinator before being fired over an old Facebook post in which she used profanities against Netanyahu.
Other speakers included Israeli-American stand-up comedian Benji Lovitt and Judith Edelman-Green, a Reform rabbi from Kfar Sava.
Mindy Goldberg, the founder of Pantsuit Nation Israel and one of the organizers, estimated the number of participants at somewhere between 400 and 500.
“We are really happy with the turnout and the energy here,” she said. “The fact that we were able to partner with organizations that are more to the left of us sets a good example for the American-Jewish community that it is possible to bring the center and left together.”
Marla Gamoran, a participant visiting Israel from New York, said she would have attended the Washington march had she been back home. “I felt it was important to come here tonight to show how many of us are disturbed by Trump’s policies and to motivate people to do something,” said Gamoran, who runs a nonprofit that sends volunteers to Israel.
She was attending the event with Judith Kornblatt, a friend from Madison, Wisconsin, who is spending the year in Israel. “I was feeling very distraught by what’s happening in the United States,” said Kornblatt. “I don’t blame Trump, though – I blame the people who voted for him. I fear that many of the advances made since the 1960s and ’70s in civil rights and human rights in the United States will be eroded very rapidly now.”
Stephanie Kaufman, a former New Yorker now living in Israel, said she felt it was important to take an active stand against the new U.S. president and his politics. “I’m sick to my stomach about what’s happening,” she said.
Max Katz, formerly of South Africa, was among a relatively large group of demonstrators from other English-speaking countries. “Looking at the run-up to the election, it was clear that Trump was not suited to the job,” he said, explaining his decision to attend the protest. “I feel it is my duty to stand up to someone who spreads such negative stereotypes.”
Katz said growing up in apartheid South Africa had made him especially wary of the new U.S. leader. “It is easy for me to see how people can be led into dark things,” he said.
The Israeli branch of Democrats Abroad held a separate event last night at the home of a leading party activist in Israel. “On January 21, we will reflect on the true spirit of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the invitation to the event said. “‘When you get knocked down, get back up.’ There is work to be done.”
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