Thousands rally for unity in Tel Aviv following Azaria verdict

“Each and every one of us has the responsibility to act toward a mutual guarantee to save the rare fabric that our people have."

January 7, 2017 23:34
3 minute read.
YOUTH SING in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square last night, at an event calling to heal the divisions in Israe

YOUTH SING in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square last night, at an event calling to heal the divisions in Israeli society. (photo credit: LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI)


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“I am whole because of the unity of the people,” said Capt. Ziv Shilon, who lost his arm in a Hamas terrorist attack near the Gaza border in 2012.

He made these comments at a rally on Saturday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where a couple of thousand gathered to project unity and call for an end to the divisiveness plaguing Israeli society in the wake of Sgt. Elor Azaria’s manslaughter conviction.

Shilon told the crowd that when he lay in the hospital following his injury, what helped him was the support he received from people of all sectors of society.

“There is a way to say things and that is in a civilized manner, with love and not by swearing and badmouthing,” Shilon said at the rally.

In the middle of the event, just ahead of Shilon’s speech to the crowd, a dozen Azaria supporters interrupted the rally with banners and megaphones and cries that Azaria was innocent and calls for his release. They were escorted away by police.

Late Thursday night, Shilon, who has been an inspiration to many Israelis due to his optimism in the face of great adversity, took to Facebook to decry the “hate” which has divided the nation.

“I feel that our people are divided, hurt, hateful, disappointed, discouraged,” he wrote.

Shilon explained that following the Azaria verdict, he took to social media to find “a glimmer of hope,” to no avail.

“A pain struck me in my chest, I went to my room and tears just started to trickle down,” he wrote. “Yes me, who did not cry during the critical moments that I don’t wish upon anyone, I sat today and simply cried, alone by myself, restrained tears but full of pain like they taught me to cry in the army for my band of brothers that I lost, I cried for the people of Israel that are tearing themselves to pieces with unprecedented hate.

“I cried for my hand that I left in Gaza and I asked myself, maybe for the first time in my life, whether it was worth fighting for a people that hates itself,” he continued.

Shilon decried the vilification of the IDF and people who express their refusal to serve in the army.

“The army was, until now, a consensus, a lighthouse for all the armies of the world, and today factions of the people that it protects call for the murder of the man who leads it? The army that they will not go to...,” he wrote.

As such, Shilon said he would make a stance at Rabin Square Saturday night, “even if it is by myself,” in order to express and call for “solidarity and mutual love and a return to the center of power that is crumbling – our unity.”

Shilon’s emotional post quickly garnered tens of thousands of views as thousands pledged to join him in the square.

His plea also won the support of Gesher, an organization which aims to bridge rifts in Israeli society, and the Jerusalem Unity Prize, initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality and the mothers of the three teenagers – Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel – who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the summer of 2014.

“Each and every one of us has the responsibility to act toward a mutual guarantee to save the rare fabric that our people have, let’s learn to look one another in the eye in a good light. Let’s learn the differences between us. Let’s hug one another, hug our army and our country. Let’s take responsibility,” Bat-Galim Shaer, mother of Gil-Ad, said at the rally.

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