Last Saturday night on August 6, 2011, 400,000 people in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and all over Israel stood united to say one thing that rose above all the different signs and voices: there is something that is happening in Israeli society that is not aligned with justice, that is not aligned with Jewish ethics, that is not aligned with Truth. Yes, it was a deep call for change in government policy, but at the same time it is a call for a shift in the Israeli collective. This demonstration along with the struggle at large does not feel like just a demand from the government as an outside force, but also a demand of the public from itself.
The central slogan of this revolution “Ha’am doresh tzedek hevrati,” the people demand social justice, was chanted not only as a protest, but as a prayer; or as Ari Elon, teacher at Bina- the secular yeshiva, and a man of Torah, beautifully put it: “ha’am doresh,” in its essence means in Hebrew: the people are inquiring into, or seeking to discern- what is social justice?
Posing this demand for justice, asking the question of justice IS in of itself the shift in consciousness that is being experienced here. Many people who came to the demonstration describe a feeling of “before” and “after”, nothing could stay the same. So many different parts of society came together to convey the same message: we want a just society that takes care of its weak, that is not utilitarian, that does not put capital at its center, that does not allow heartless “so called” freedom which is actually a regressive state of “survival of the fittest” to take over society and culture. Mutual responsibility should be at the center of Israeli society, was a central message. And yes, this struggle was begun by the middle class, but no one, absolutely no one is looking only at the needs of one particular sector or another.
There is a cry for wholeness and recognition that our fate is linked together, that no one could be free if there are others that are being oppressed. This is why you see men holding signs for women’s rights, Jews holding signs for full equality for Israel’s Arab citizens, and young, healthy, middle class students demanding rights for the poor, for single mothers, for the elderly, for foreign workers, for government workers, for people with disabilities, and yes, also for themselves. Believe it or not even people with means, who lack nothing in material goods were there too. And there was kindness at the heart of this demonstration, hundreds of thousands of people in one place and such gentleness of spirit, a place where whole families with young children felt safe. There was no aggression, no blood, stores are not being looted, this is a revolution that is not “against” but “for”, as a friend put it.
There are no victims here, just a sense of power and ownership, it is a celebration. One of the speakers a the demonstration, Benyamin Lau, a Modern Orthodox rabbi, looking into the crowd could not help but say the “sh’hehyanu,” Blessing G-d for allow us to live and see this precious moment. Right after him the well known Uda Basharat, an Israeli Arab writer, stood in front of the crowd to speak with a shaky, emotion filled, voice. All speakers without fail conveyed a message of unification.
Two days later, it was the eve of Tish’a B’Av, a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple, but more importantly commemorating the main reason for it: “senseless hatered.” On Rothchild Street in Tel Aviv, the place where this struggle begun thousands are sitting humbly on the ground in between the tents, groups are chanting out of Eicha, Lamentation, teachers and rabbis of different streams are teaching alongside each other profound words of Torah, groups are huddled together in music and respectful discussion. Only one street away the Jewish Arab partnership tent is making signs in both languages.
The Third Temple is being built with bricks of justice and senseless loving kindness.
Are you in or out?