We Aren't Tired--Are We?? by Judy Lash Balint Jewsweek
June 4, 2003
Arik Sharon's voters turned out in the thousands tonight to reject their prime minister's aquiescence to creation of a Palestinian state on Israeli territory.
A hastily organized demonstration brought out some 50,000 people to the streets of downtown Jerusalem, under the banner "Oslo Proves: We Can't Give Them A State." CNN's three second coverage was accompanied by the information that "thousands" of Israelis took to the streets to protest the Road Map.
It was the usual cast of characters--the teenagers bused in from all over the country; the residents of YESHA who were there en masse; the right wing political party youth who were much in evidence and the national religious public who turned out in droves. On the dais sat the gamut of right of center political figures, almost all of them members of Arik Sharon's coalition government.
We've been in this film before, as the Hebrew expression goes. I can recall at least three right-wing demonstrations at this same spot, decrying one "peace" plan or another. One protest, in May 2000, even featured then cabinet minister Arik Sharon reassuring the people that he would fight against Ehud Barak's proposal to hand over three eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods to Arab control. Today, Sharon promotes the Road Map that threatens to return Jerusalem to its pre-1967 status.
Before the start of the event, informal minyanim (prayer quorums) could be seen davening mincha on Ben Yehuda Street. The crush of people on the pedestrian mall reminded one visitor from New York of the pre- Arab-escalation-of-violence days, when the area would be packed with tourists and Jerusalem residents.
In front of the stage set up at the eastern corner of Zion Square, those closest to the security barriers waved huge signs for the benefit of the phalanx of foreign press photographers and cameramen scrambling to get their best shot. Unlike previous demonstrations, signs in English were very much in evidence.
Inevitably, the cameras focused on the one or two out of control protestors who screamed slogans at whatever camera happened to be pointed their way.
After a moment of silence for the victims of Arab terror, the speeches get underway. National Religious Party leader Effie Eitam reading from a prepared speech, proclaims that the people are not tired. "We know how to be in there for the long haul," he adds.
Minister of Tourism Rabbi Benny Elon, receives sustained applause and loud cheering for his fiery speech that offers the Jordan Is Palestine alternative. "There's a Palestinian state," states Elon. "It's capital is Amman." Many signs proclaiming the same message are scattered through the crowd. Elon's peace plan (www.therightroadtopeace.com) is gathering steam. Elon closes with the statement that, "Over the past 32 months (since the beginning of the current Arab violence) the people are stronger than their leaders..."
One of the teenage sons of Rabbi Yosef and Chana Dickstein who were murdered by terrorists last year, leads the massive crowd in reading several tehillim (Psalms) as well as the prayer for the well-being of Israel's soldiers.
There's singing and flag-waving before the Hatikva, which closes the rally. As we walk away, we all ask ourselves the same question--will the Road Map go the way of all the other plans we've demonstrated about on this same spot?