The protests are not just a social event - opinion

Photographs may be interesting for social media, but protestors are fighting for the future of their country.

 THE WRITER is among those blocking Ayalon Highway at a protest last month, after having addressed a demonstration from the main stage on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: Gilad Bashan)
THE WRITER is among those blocking Ayalon Highway at a protest last month, after having addressed a demonstration from the main stage on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Gilad Bashan)

Israel is on the verge of dictatorship, with its extreme right-wing government passing a law limiting judicial power on Monday. In the days before the Knesset decision, crowds took the road to Jerusalem - some by foot during a four-day journey orchestrated by the protests’ leaders, and some equipped with tents for an overnight stay outside the Knesset.

Moments before the legislation was passed, large-scale demonstrations took place. Concurrently, warnings by high-ranking officials, such as Major-Generals Aharon Haliva (my father) and Oded Basiuk, as well as heads of intelligence and operations, who briefed the cabinet members on the perception of the situation in the Middle East, were given.

But as news broke out, attached with an obnoxious selfie of the coalition members, the people took it to the streets and on social media. Being an activist instantly became the trendiest thing in Israel. 

But while people find the aggressiveness of the police fascinating content, others are terrified; women and gay rights are in jeopardy; Israel’s position within the democratic world is weakening; the shekel is in a severe downfall; and even its enemies see the possible leverage in this chaos, as Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah was quick to comment.

Israeli citizens will soon be forced to decide whether they are willing to take an actual stand and fight, even physically, against everything they’ve known, or whether to escape somewhere else and become refugees once more, just like their ancestors. 

The harshest images around

Tuesday morning was a harsh one, as well. Many Israeli newspapers blackened their cover pages, pictures of beaten children and chaos from the night before flooded the internet, and the United Torah Judaism party presented a bill to anchor Torah studies in Basic Law. And yet, most people do not care about the details.

Pictures of escapism from European vacations or words of horror about police violence filled my Instagram. Some even shared that coalition selfie that was a blow under the belt to most people who have protested for 30 weeks with words of their revulsion.

Now is the time for people to dive into the complex world of Israeli society: To understand a constitution must be formed; to comprehend that the religious status quo, agreed to by David Ben-Gurion with the Orthodox parties in 1948, was now the source of hatred and inequality; to determine that the voting system in Israel needs updating, as we are currently in a situation where the majority of the voters are perceived as the minority who do not know how to lose; and to agree that changes and reforms are acceptable, but only if conducted reasonably and independently. 

The power of social media must be a stepping stone to education and unbiased knowledge, not merely the endgame. And despite the demonstrations currently being the hottest place to be, Israeli citizens must make up their minds and decide whether they are willing to fight for their state in the long run.

Photographing violence, hit-and-run attempts, and highway blockades might be cool content for the ‘gram, but it is also the unfortunate reality for those wishing to fight for Israel’s being as a democracy. 

The writer is a student in the Argov honor program for government and diplomacy at Reichman University, the founder and leader of the Students’ Protest Movement, and a reservist IDF jump master (paratrooper instructor).