Thousands of protesters in favor of the judicial reform gathered next to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Monday evening, with signs reading "leftist traitors," "[Meir] Kahana was right," "I am a second class citizen" and "they're stealing the election from us."
Two right-wing protesters -one adult and one minor- were arrested in Jerusalem on Monday night for blocking the road, according to legal aid group Honenu.
Right-wing groups including Regavim, Im Tirzu, Ad Kan, Bezalmo and Torat Lehima, organized the protest in response to the protest against the judicial reform and the coalition held in front of the Knesset earlier in the day. The extremist La Familia group also took part in the protest.
Advertisements for the protest published online stated that the Right is in an "emergency situation," warning that "they will not steal the elections from us."
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir shared the advertisement on Twitter writing "today we stop being silent. Today is the day the Right wakes up. Share it forward."
היום אנחנו מפסיקים לשתוק. היום הימין מתעורר. הפיצו הלאה. pic.twitter.com/okanuudwo0— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) March 27, 2023
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich echoed Ben-Gvir's sentiments in a statement on Monday, in which he said:
"Friends, under no circumstances should we stop the judicial reform [which will] strengthen Israeli democracy. We are the majority, We must not give into violence, anarchy...and wild strikes. Let's make our voice heard."
He concluded his statement with a call to action: "Let's meet tonight at 6 p.m. tonight, in Jerusalem, in front of the Knesset. I'll be there...We can't let them steal our voice and our country!"
At the protest, Smotrich claimed that the media would try to make the protest look small, stating that there were "hundreds of thousands" at the protest. According to initial estimates, tens of thousands of people were at the protest.
Smotrich called on Netanyahu to come to the protest, saying "Mr. prime minister, announce that we are passing the reform this week! Pass the reform now!"
Communications Minister Shlomo Karai congratulated the protesters, saying that he was with Netanyahu shortly before coming to the protest and that the prime minister was "receiving strength" from the protest.
"We are not stopping in any way, shape or form," stressed Karai. "We will not surrender to anarchists. Even if they decide to wait a day or two, the reform will move forward."
Messages calling to 'destroy' anti-reform protesters
Police prepared at the site ahead of the protest amid concerns that the protesters from both sides could clash and the situation could escalate to violence.
Screenshots published by Israeli media from right-wing WhatsApp and Telegram groups showed messages calling to "destroy" anti-reform protesters and referring to the situation as a "civil war."
Protesters at the scene chanted "the people want a judicial reform," "they are afraid" and "leftists go home." Youth at the scene grabbed LGBTQ+ Pride flags from anti-reform protesters who passed nearby and threatened to beat up journalists who took photos of them.
View this post on Instagram
The groups organizing the protest did not expressed support for the calls for violence being expressed on social media.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for protesters from both the Right and the Left to "act responsibly and not to act with violence," adding "we are all brothers."
Tens of thousands of protesters against the judicial reform and the government gathered in front of the Knesset on Monday morning and afternoon, joining protesters who spent the night there. Shortly before the pro-reform protest began, many of the protesters moved to Aza Street to protest in front of Netanyahu's apartment.
Mass protests broke out across Israel on Sunday night in response to a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after Gallant publicly expressed concerns about the security ramifications of the government's efforts to pass the judicial reform. Netanyahu stated after firing Gallant that he had "lost trust" in the defense minister.
Religious Zionist rabbis express support for judicial reform
Rabbi Zvi Thau, the head of Yeshivat Har Hamor, also announced that he would take part in the counter protests and encouraged his students to take part as well.
About 20 leading rabbis who lead religious Zionist institutions called on Monday on the government to continue legislating the legal reforms and asked to show support for the representatives of the right wing political parties. "It is unthinkable that a minority will impose its opinion violently," the rabbis wrote.
"By the grace of God, the people of Israel chose a Jewish and nationalistic government that is expected to operate in support of Torah, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel," the rabbis said in the letter. "It is unthinkable that a minority will impose its opinion violently by creating anarchy in the streets."
Among the rabbis who have signed the petition are Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva; Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed; Rabbi Menachem Burstein, of the Puah organization; Eliakim Levanon, head of the Alon Moreh Yeshiva; Yigal Levinstein, head of the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli; Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron; Tzvi Kostiner, of the Yeshiva in Mizpe Ramon and others. Most of thede rabbis would be considered hardal (Nationalist-ultra-Orthodox).
These rabbis also encouraged their students to participate in the right-wing demonstration supporting the judicial reform on Monday evening.
The rabbis called on the government to advance the legal reform: "We call on the representatives of the right-wing camp to continue with the legislation and strengthen them during this great time."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.