A little over a week ago I stood in Rabin Square with tens of thousands of Israelis, remembering Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z’l, gathering with the moderate tribe of Israel. Isaac Herzog, leader of the Knesset opposition, charged that “twenty-one years on, the incitement is the same incitement and the leader is same the leader,” alluding to prime minster Netanyahu’s role in the days before the assassination. “We can no longer let anyone, not a bully nor a leader, continue to incite — not a Knesset member, not a minister and not the prime minister.”
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni continued along the same track, emotionally saying “we say yes to democracy, to moderate Judaism, yes to peace, yes to the values that established this country. This is the biggest fight that we have, more important than any person or party.”
Between and during the speakers, the crowd chanted, “Bibi, go home!” There were no illusions that he was going to leave on his own, but there was renewed energy in the square that night. Party members, many young, from Labor and Meretz, grassroots activists from Women Wage Peace, Peace now and more, As President Obama likes to say, they are fired up and ready to go.
The next day I met with our partners at Road to Recovery, the group of Israeli volunteers that shuttle Palestinian patients from West Bank and Gaza checkpoints to medical appointments in Israel. Yuval Roth and Eli Sahar took me to the village of Joyyous to meet Naim, the West Bank coordinator of the effort. Every evening he fields calls from people up and down the West Bank who need transportation to Israeli hospitals. This is after a 13 hour day going to and from his construction job in Israel.
Despite losing half of his olive grove to the route of the security barrier and having family members harassed by the IDF, he remains committed to co-existence and a two state solution. He values his relationship with a wide range of Israeli peace activists and scoffs at neighbors who criticize his cooperation with the “enemy.” His motto? “All of the world is one big hamula (clan, in Arabic). His immediate goal? To set up a Road to Recovery operation on the West Bank so that he can spend full-time on the project, expanding the number of patients who get treatment and developing a transportation system on his side of the Green Line. At Ameinu, we aim to help make that a reality; if you want to join us in this effort, let me know.
Everywhere I went during this recent trip to Israel, I was asked by politicians, friends and cab drivers about the presidential election. Along with most of you, I thought the result would be different and like you I am working through the five stages of grief. In the coming days, Ameinu will have more to say on this subject.
However, one thing is clear: This is not the time for “congratulations Mr. President-elect, we look forward to working with you.” Lines were crossed and things were said about Muslims, immigrants, refugees, women, minorities and other groups that can’t be swept away with a “binding the wounds” comment on election night. If you need to be reminded, James Fallows compiled a time capsule of Trumpisms throughout the campaign…..both a useful tool and a painful reminder. We know that it cannot be business as usual.
Friends, whether it is in U.S. or Israel, Ameinu will use its place around the Jewish communal table, and with our colleagues in Israel and in Washington to “speak truth to power.”
And remember the classic exhortation from the union organizer Joe Hill: “Don’t Mourn, Organize.” Stay tuned more than ever!