I was late.
The facebook page for the event: A protest of rage against violence and sexual intimidation.
The crowd had already moved on from Shuster Square and ghostly echoes of protest chanting were caught hanging in the still Ramat Aviv air. As I got closer the voice of the protest got louder, reverberating off the ashphalt and the beige slate veneer of the housing blocks. Rounding the corner away from the main traffic and red and blue lights doused the nighttime darkness in ethereal streaks, accenting the otherworldliness of the moment.
Ramat Aviv was what passed for upper middle class in this part of the world. Teenage girls jogging in their tight lycras, moms fussbodying about, meeting for coffees and hauling bags of shopping and the occasional middle aged man sauntering along in some lacadaisical version of an evening constitutional. Yet tonight, like every Thursday for the past seven or eight weeks this white picket paradise was invaded by an entire phalanx of law enforcement. Regular cops, investigators, riot police and the ever present contingent of undercovers and provocateurs.
Ramat Aviv. Even the upper middle class are hardly in the lap of opulence. But there are more trees.
Their mission: Escort and contain the protests. And of course, becasue of the tensions everything seemed more intense. There seemed to be more squad cars, more people movers, more patrols of two or three cops advancing through the streets in formation.
For days now the facebooks had been alight with tension and everybody had some niggling foreboding thought about what could happen. People were angry. Real angry. One week earlier the Lo Nechmadim’s Black Night party was stormed by a contingent of riot police. In the midst of the fray one of the girls had been threatened and molested. Several arrests were made and like always, no one was charged and everyone was returned home.
Since then things had just gone wild. Videos of the event surfaced on facebook. The Police pages began screaming bloody murder and false accussations and they enlisted the help of Ruth Calderon, high profile Member of the Knesset from Yesh Atid. Immediately her wall was covered in the worst kind of accusations. I had to join in.
The video in question.
The Knesset convened a special meeting on Police Violence toward the protesters and she remained conspicuously absent. At the hearing several of the girls gave testimony. Several MK’s made speeches. Nothing was done. The police were reading it in their favor. No one cared. The story never broke big in the press. More feminist complaining. More spoilt brat protesters. The delegitimzation and intimidation campaign appeared to be on track.
The Knesset meeting regarding violence and sexual abuse of protesters. (Israel Independent Press – Facebook)
By the time I caught up the crowd had already gathered on the empty lot that backed onto Lapid’s house. Someone was mic checking, making another speech about something important and i disappeared into a pool of darkness to roll a cigarette and survey the scene. It was still small. A few hundred at most. This was no angry mob baying for blood but something far more contained. It wasn’t polite but this band were not about to start storming houses and smashing cars. Not yet anyway. And so once again I got caught in a mild moment of despair, as most of us would feel. No action. Nothing exciting yet.
Hundreds at the back of Lapid’s house. It looks impressive but its still contained.
The mic checking finished and the crowd swung around back to the front of the house and into the relative brightness of the streetlights. I could finally get a look at what was going on. It was a little different. For a start there were heaps of people I did not know. Which isn’t saying much. I hardly know everyone, but I know a lot of faces and I know what protesters look like and smell like and there was one overwhelming fact about this crowd – a lot of them were civilians. A lot. And there was age diversity too. Not just kids, but the middle aged and even the old were out and they were angry. It was small to be sure, but it was clearly getting beyond the regulars.
A balding geriatric with a leathery face was right up against the cordon of police that blocked the driveway into Lapid’s house. His eyes were going wild and the lines on his face told that tired and familiar Israeli story. Part of the generation who had come here in the early days, fought the wars, did the good Zionist thing and found themselves surviving into the twenty first centrury destitute and lonely and tired and cut off from everything they thought they were supposed to believe in. And so he had turned up to scream at the Minister who was busy parading himself as the symbol of the lost Zionism that once was.
“The dead have no manners” began Lapid’s memorial day post and what followed was one of the most tear-jerking and flag waving propaganda suckfests. But he read the mood right. 17,000 likes in an hour. But that was in the honeymoon days. Now that he was actually making decisions his posts were lucky to crack the 1000 barrier. People were seeing through him way faster than I had anticipated.
Morsi = Bibi + Lapid: The Same Revolution (Instagram: Or-ly Barlev)
A woman in a four wheel drive gets stuck at the roadblock and two protesters begin snapping away at her with their phones and cameras. For weeks now the protesters have been hands off with the regular rank and file, desperate to appear right and just and proper in the eyes of the so-called mainstream. But tonight was different. She gets out of her car, screaming and threatening lawsuits. The guy doesn’t back down. He holds. Damn you he says, look at you and your fancy car and your fancy neighborhood. You live in a bubble.You have no idea what our lives are like.
And then, in the midst of anger and the general feeling of helplessness that was starting to accompany these events a Nachman truck hoved into view. They had never been here before. in fact, no one had seen sight nor sign of any of the messianic groups since the headiest days of 2011. And to come out here, all the way to Ramat Aviv. This was an escalation of an entirely different kind.
The na nachs arrive
Religious dance music in an up-tempo freilich suddenly intruded on the monotonous hon-shilton-olam tachtons. People stopped. they didnt know how to react. the protesters are generally immune to happiness. And then it broke. Suddenly people were dancing, people just got into the vibe and for a brief, brief moment the revolution lived once again. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed Daphni Leef, bopping to the music and looking as happy as any day since the Summer.
Activists jump on top of the Nachman’s van for a brief moment of joy. (Instagram: Or-ly Barlev)
And then, as quickly as it had come it went. The cops, momentarily as stunned as all of us had regained composure and began following standard procedure. They shut down the music immediately, on the pretext of allowing the neighbors to sleep -which is in every single way the exact point of why they were here – to make sure the neighbours dont wake up. And then it was over. the sudden rush of energy could not be reclaimed, the peak had hit and from that point on the entire night diffused and degenerated. But it was there. For that brief moment. New groups were joining the revolution.