In the Name of Democracy

Anything goes in the name of democracy. That’s what I learned yesterday when I was awakened at 5:45 am by the smell of burning and loud screaming.

By Dov Eilon | | Topics: Democracy in Israel
Tires can also be set on fire in the name of democracy. Yesterday morning on our street in Modiin. Photo: Jonathan Shaul/Flash90

Yesterday I was tired all day because I got up at 5:45 am. It’s your own fault, you might be thinking, why get up so early? The thing is my alarm was set for 7 am. But yesterday, most of the people in my neighborhood didn’t need an alarm clock. Around half past five I started hearing strange noises, whistles, drums, horns and then screams. At first I didn’t react to it, but when it also started to smell like fire, I got up, startled. So it wasn’t a dream after all. And then when I heard the shouts for “democracy,” I realized what was going on.

Since January, there have been demonstrations against the planned judicial reform on our street in front of the house of our Justice Minister Yariv Levin. Unfortunately, we have gotten used to hearing this noise several times a week. Lately there have been fewer protests in front of our neighbour’s house, but now that the government is once again trying to implement parts of the judicial reform, the visits of the demonstrators on our otherwise quiet street are increasing.

The magic word that permits the demonstrators to do just about anything is “democracy.” At every demonstration in front of Levin’s house, I hear calls for democracy. I too am an absolute supporter of democracy. But can you really do anything in the name of democracy? Here’s the reason for the unpleasant burning smell that chased me out of bed at quarter to six:

Impressive, right? To be honest, I was shocked. There has never been anything like it on our street. But that’s not all. The warriors for democracy had other surprises in store for us.

Our street was blocked with barbed wire. They wanted to stop us on our street. The municipality informed me that the police had been informed of the incident and would take care of it. However, it took almost two hours before the police showed up and began to break up the unannounced protest.

I wasn’t surprised at the police’s slow response. In the past few months I’ve learned that the police like to take a little longer to intervene in protests of this kind, i.e. pro-democracy demonstrations. The demonstrators in Tel Aviv were repeatedly allowed to block the central Aylalon Expressway for hours. Once even under the direction of Tel Aviv Police Chief Ami Eshed.

Tel Aviv Police Chief Ami Eshed was applauded by protestors for helping to block the Ayalon Expressway in March.

And now back to my street in Modiin. At around 8 am, I left home with my son to go to the passport office in neighboring Modiin Illit, an Orthodox Jewish town in the Binyamin Region. Since the exit of my street was blocked, I had to drive against traffic to find my way to freedom on the other side.

When I got home two hours later, there was nothing left of the whole chaotic scene. Our street regained its calm. But only until evening. A demonstration in support of the Minister of Justice and for judicial reform was scheduled for 7 pm.

Great, I thought to myself, this can be fun. But I didn’t have a problem with that, after all this is about preserving democracy, isn’t it? And so it started again in the evening. This time both camps met in front of our neighbor’s house, the supporters of the judicial reform against the “just not Bibi” camp, by which I mean the opponents of the reform. While the supporters of the reform demanded the results of the recent election be accepted and the reform implemented, there were more pro-democracy cries from the other side. This evening was a wonderful lesson in democracy where everyone is free to speak their mind. The problem is that many opponents of the government, ie. those fighting for “democracy,” are not ready to accept the results of elections that don’t go their way. The organizers of the protests have said more than once that they will not rest until the government collapses.

These protests are heavily supported, also financially, by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has repeatedly called for a broad popular uprising. Incredible actually. However, he is now a little more careful with his statements so as not to be prosecuted for incitement. Because that’s exactly what people started talking about a few days ago. Barak is now holding back somewhat, as is former Meretz Knesset lawmaker and former deputy army chief Yair Golan. He, too, said it was permissible to break the law when it came to protecting Israel from dictatorship.

Incidentally, this time the police were on site before the official start of the demonstration. Pro-reform and pro-Levin protesters were kept at a distance from his home and allowed to pledge their support from across the park. Opponents of the reform then gathered on the opposite side of the street.

Supporter of the government and judicial reform. They were allowed to demonstrate in the park opposite. Photo: Yossi Zeliger/TPS

Today I got up again at a normal time to write you these lines. I hope that we will get a calmer day today and that the different sides can somehow come to an agreement, even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment. We have far too many problems here in the country at the moment. We simply cannot afford this endless strife within our people. Do we need a national catastrophe to find each other again?


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