Tal Perry left his Tel Aviv office, where he works for a hedge fund, to tie a noose around his neck on the city’s boardwalk by the sea.
The black-haired, smiling 27- year-old, wasn’t trying to commit suicide. He is part of a small group of right-wing Israelis who wanted to send a simple message to US President Barack Obama: “Do not hang us.”
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Exactly at the moment that Obama was addressing the American Public Affairs Committee
in Washington, the protesters gathered at the boardwalk just outside of
the American embassy, where they hung large white and red banners of
the gray steel barrier that said: "Israel won't commit suicide."
Other smaller signs read: "Israel can't be divided," "Obama change your mind," and "No, to the Auschwitz lines of 1949."
Although they had not yet heard Obama speak, they were reacting a statement that he made in his Middle East speech last week, that a two-state solution would be based on the pre-1967 border.
The activists were not mollified by the facts that Obama stated on Thursday – and again on Sunday – that Israel’s border would not be exactly on the ’67 line, because it would include land swaps.
The notion that the ’67 borders would be the basis for negotiations was enough to send them out to the street.
The event was organized by the Facebook group “My Israel,” which has 51,000 followers.
But only some 100 activists came to the Tel Aviv boardwalk. A number of them, such as Perry, walked around the rally, with a noose around their necks talking to reporters.
Using one hand to hold the rope over his head to mimic being hanged, Perry said, “We’re being sent to our death here. We have done nothing wrong, all we want to do is to live in peace.”
To Obama, he said, “Do not be a one-term president. Be a president who makes brave choices – who makes smart choices.”
Not everyone at the rally was swayed.
One tall Tel Aviv resident, Michael Elsner, hadn’t meant to come to the rally at all. Elsner was walking away from the beach, barefoot, wearing nothing but gray shorts and a bluebaseball cap, when he bumped into an enthusiastic activist Ilana Shatiel, who argued with him about the danger of Obama’s position.
He ended up holding an Israeli flag, as he debated her, and then thought about her words.
Elsner told The Jerusalem Post that he would be willing to accept Obama’s vision, “then this lady over there [Shatiel], told me that it is very dangerous. Now I am a little bit afraid,” he said.
But he added that in spite of her cautionary words, he was still of the opinion that one needed to make concessions for peace.
“I do not want to have wars all my life. I think compromising is good for people,” he said.
But Shatiel said that Obama’s solution would bring destruction upon Israel.
Obama, she said, will be president for a short time, possibly even only another two years. But Israel would have to live for a very long time with his decisions – which could leave it with a country that is only 9-miles wide in certain areas, she said.
As she spoke, passing drivers who supported the rally honked their horns.
One of the rally’s organizers, Ayelet Shaked, addressed the crowd, stating, “We support America, but we can say to you: ‘Obama you are wrong.’ “In your speech you abandoned a friend. You betrayed the only true democracy in the Middle East [and] America’s only friend and ally, Israel,” Shaked added. “President Obama: We will never divide Jerusalem – not tomorrow, not in a 100 years, not in a thousand years. The Israeli people elected a government who opposes giving up our homeland.
You’re a democracy. So are we. Respect our will to live.”
Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick said that Obama’s position was not that of the American people.
“We call from here to the American people to stand with us, because we will always stand with you,” she said.