The power of silently standing shoulder-to-shoulder

Internal division is again threatening Israel.

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Politics
Photo: Aliza Ashkenazi

Last week Aviel and I sat with dear friends from Berlin in a nice restaurant called “Joshua’s Cafe” on “Gaza Street” in Jerusalem not far from the Prime Minister’s house.

At the very same time, a huge group of demonstrators started marching together nearby with some of the families of the hostages (who are being held in the Gaza Strip). The goal of the demonstrators was to reach the street where we were and demonstrate in front of Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu’s residence. The street hummed, people came from all directions. Policemen on horses galloped past and tried to prevent the protesters from entering the street. The demonstration became heated, and we felt we must walk out of the restaurant to try to understand what was happening outside.

In one moment the crowd managed to break through and began racing down the street toward the prime minister’s house. I was very scared. It felt very violent, and I didn’t know what to expect.

After all, both the policeman and the protesting citizen are brothers.

Don’t we all have a common enemy that wants to destroy us and he is in Gaza City, not on Gaza Street! And he is in Lebanon and Iran but not here at home.

“So how is it possible that brothers act like this towards each other? Where did we come from? And where are we going?”

These are the thoughts that ran through my head along with fear of the violence that hung in the air. For half a year now, the families of the hostages have been doing everything in their power to return their loved ones home. During this half year we wrote about quite a few actions and projects that they did and are still doing. One of the most important things they did right from the start was to join forces and act together as one body that has only one goal.

To get all the hostages back home now!!!

Photo: Aliza Ashkenazi

With all the great difficulty and pain and with the unreasonable worry that they go through every day, there was something refreshing and hopeful in their unity and the “togetherness” that they stuck to and through which they conveyed an important message. It infected us all and harnessed the entire nation to support them and help them in their difficult struggle, because every Israeli yearns for the captives to return!

A few weeks after the failure and the great disaster, we all got to see most of the abducted children, the older women and a number of other women who were released home from Gaza! All of our hearts were filled with joy. I, who have not watched the news for years, sat transfixed and watched the return of those hostages, for several evenings in a row.

And that’s it… Since that amazing week, the remaining 133 hostages have remained in captivity. And since then everything the families tried to do for their return did not help and nothing brought them back. And despair gnawed away inside us – in some more and in some less.

To remind you…  before October 7th, the State of Israel was divided.

Demonstrations were held every week throughout the country. And the gap between the people was large and alarming, and expressions of lack of acceptance to the point of hatred were heard from all sides. On October 7th the demonstrations ceased, and the common disaster that befell us gave a sense of unity, gave a new sense of hope that we might still be able to live together side by side despite harsh differences of opinion. But as the days passed, and as the war continued, as more IDF soldiers were buried and there were more and more wounded, and as the days and nights continued and the kidnapped continued to rot in the captivity of hell… the voices of division and hatred rose again, until they succeeded sadly, in dividing the families of the hostages.

There are those who joined the protest headquarters of “Brothers in Arms” (which is an organization with a ~leftist political agenda). And there are others who believe in demonstrations, but in a different way. I want to bring here two voices of two mothers of hostages, each demonstrating in a different way today.

One recently joined the protests together with the “Brothers in Arms” organization. In an interview on a news channel, she shouted her cry:

We are crushed. Some people no longer have the strength to shout the cry of their loved ones. The families are crushed. The regional councils are crushed. For us, the maximum in a democratic country is to come and demonstrate.”

She added that the “Brothers in Arms” organization has been chasing them for six months, in order to connect them to its demonstrations. And the families of the hostages rejected and resisted joining them for six months, because they did not want the demonstrations for the return of the hostages to become political. “Until we had no choice.”

The other is the voice of the mother of Omar Shem Tov who was kidnapped from the Nova party:

“I want to cry, I just want to cry! We are in crazy frustration and we are back to this abnormal war between us. Why? Wake up!

“If a million people stand quietly, that’s power! Don’t light bonfires on the streets! I don’t connect to that way at all. Power means coming and standing behind us, and then the whole nation will come. Then there will be no resistance from this side or that side. Because that is what it represents for us to stand shoulder to shoulder. Like the soldiers in the army, no matter which political side they are on, when on duty, they stand shoulder to shoulder. So come and be shoulder to shoulder with us.”

Photo: Aliza Ashkenazi

I connect very much to the power of silence. It is very strong to stand shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate the strength of the heart. Maybe this silence in its strength and the shoulders connected in their unity will speed up the process for us and for the hostages, for freedom.

Because as long as they rot there in captivity, no one in this country can feel free.

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