Last night, an impromptu protest unfolded on the main Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, with demonstrators gathering in response to the resignation of Tel Aviv District Police Commander Ami Eshed, who accused National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir of political interference in the police’s work. The protesters believed that Eshed’s resignation symbolized larger challenges plaguing Israeli society, particularly concerning judicial reform, which they view as steering the country in the wrong direction.
While it is essential to acknowledge the concerns expressed by both protesters and police, it is crucial for both parties to consider the consequences of their actions carefully. Blocking a vital thoroughfare like the Ayalon highway, through which millions of Israelis commute daily, disrupts the lives of many citizens who rely on it to reach home or pick up their children. Tensions escalated last night when a few angry drivers attempted to drive through the protests, revealing the potential strain on societal harmony caused by such actions.
This past week witnessed another major disruption of everyday life with protests obstructing Ben-Gurion Airport. Ahead of the demonstrations, Central District Police Commander Avi Biton appealed to the protesters to keep the roads clear. The airport serves as a crucial artery for Israel, and blocking it can have severe consequences during emergencies, impeding the movement of security and medical personnel. Biton emphasized the need for responsibility on the part of protest organizers to prevent any regrettable disasters, emphasizing that the traffic lanes near Ben-Gurion Airport are designated as emergency roads and must be kept open for rescue services at all times.
As we enter the 27th week of protests in Israel, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. Throughout our collective heritage, respectful dialogue and discussion have always been valued by the Jewish people, a tradition traced back to the time of the sages and the disputes between Hillel and Shammai. This emphasis on discussion and dispute offers guidance during these challenging times, reminding us that we can convey our points passionately while remaining civil.
The greatest crisis for the Jewish state is internal division
During the early years of the State of Israel, the country’s leadership recognized the necessity of caution during crises. David Ben-aGurion and Menachem Begin demonstrated that despite deep-rooted disagreements, democracy could thrive in the Middle East. Whether during the 1948 bipartisan Altalena shootout at the dawn of independence or the following reparations dispute with Germany, the potential for wider violence was always present. Responsible leadership played a crucial role in averting catastrophe and steering the country back from the edge.
Today, we are once again confronted with a significant dispute within our democratic system. Numerous responsible voices advocate for unity, reflecting the aspirations and shared struggles of the people in our country. At the same time, many individuals are deeply concerned about judicial reform and the independence of the judiciary, as well as the need for police to carry out their duties without political interference.
It is important to recognize the significance of keeping roads open for ordinary citizens who rely on them after a long day of work. At the same time, it is equally important for the public to exercise caution and respect the right to protest. Thus, we must continuously balance freedom of expression with the necessity of ensuring smooth public transit, securing the airport for travelers, and preventing the threat of fires and dangers on our highways. Police should maintain a fair and controlled environment for all involved.
As we pursue unity, it is crucial for our political leadership to showcase pragmatism and moderation during times of protest and dispute. The talks over the judicial reform at President Isaac Herzog’s residence have been on hold for too long. They should be resumed without delay and our leaders should do whatever they can to reach a negotiated agreement. In so doing, they should draw inspiration from our history and our future, charting a path that unifies Israel.
Our country faces no shortage of external threats, as evidenced by the recent operation in Jenin, and we must not allow internal divisions to harm us. With the three weeks before Tisha Be’av now upon us, there is no better time to reflect on the symbols of past divisions and learn lessons for unity today.