Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rabin Square Rally

I've just returned from Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where Israelis put on a demonstration of what can happen when a leader manages to convince his entire population that he is dangerously incompetent. A crowd said to be almost 200,000 strong turned out with a single message: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must resign.

The crowd seemed to run most of the gamut of Israeli political spectrum, though I didn't see any hijabis, suggesting an absence of the Arab sector. The most striking thing, however, was the sheer diversity of the crowd. In the United States, a protest such as this would most likely attract a bunch of experienced activists and college students. They were there, but the mosaic was so varied no single group stood out. As I passed through the crowd, I saw a sprinking of Haredi, Meretz activists in light green T-shirts, a group of middle school-aged kids from Sderot, beer-bellied men in wife-beater shirts, kippah-wearing men dressed nicely and carring briefcases, old ladies pushing themselves around in wheelchairs, a bunch of guys who looked like Hell's Angels wannabees, women seemingly in their 50's eager to point me toward good pictures of what they predicted would be a historic occasion, a sprinking of Haredi in their black hats and suits, some guys carrying a purple banner, families with children and young couples holding each other while they listed to the speeches, and even a few dogs whose owners were possessed to bring them to the rally, too. There were also some Knesseteers, though no one whose picture I've seen enough to recognize.

The signs were varied, and often creative. The most common were white-on-blue signs, stickers, and banners that said simply, "Elections now." Some people had made their own and printed them out on their computers, though sadly without Hebrew I couldn't read them. Several were carrying signs in the shape and style of the Ten Commandments tablets, while one creative guy had a bread theme going, though again I don't know Hebrew and didn't get the chance to ask him about it. I did talk to one person advertising the memory of the three IDF soldiers who are currently prisoners of Hamas and Hizbullah, and there was at least one sign in English about Olmert going to sleep, probably a reference to this Daily Show clip which as far as I can tell has been seen by the entire population of Israel.

While the one song I recognized was Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind," this was not a peace rally. Incompetence was really the only unifying complaint. Some might be skeptical and say many people came for the free performances by the musical acts who performed before and in between speeches. When circulating among the crowd, I didn't get much of that at all, except from a few people near the very back. Even if that was what tipped people into going, they seemed clearly to support the rally's aims. Enough of me, however: What will really tell the story of the rally is my pictures, once I get them uploaded over my still-weak connection. The Israel-savvy will probably see plenty that I missed, and be able to fill me in on the Hebrew.

UPDATE: Here's one note about the picture above: Later in the rally, someone stuck a paper airplane in Halutz's hand. If I'd realized it wasn't there before, I would have retaken it.

UPDATE: That didn't take long. The Flickr set is here.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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