I missed both rallies. I was in the air, flying from DC to Tel Aviv, on the big day. When I arrived in our Jerusalem office on Sunday, staffers showed me photos from the rally, and told me of the enormous NIF presence in Tel Aviv the day before. Somebody handed me a blue t-shirt with the Hebrew phrase “Lo Nistom et ha Peh” on it, the kind of shirt NIF supporters wore to the memorial. Translated (somewhat loosely) as, “We will not be silenced,” Lo Nistom has become the rallying cry for an NIF-organized response to the challenges to Israeli civil society over the past year. It has been embraced by Israelis who refuse to be silent in the face of a raft of anti-democratic bills in the Knesset, the attempts to brand as “anti-Israel” Israeli human and civil rights organizations that simply do their jobs, and the hostility of the state-sponored religious authorities to Jewish pluralism and freedom of religion.
I wore my “Lo Nistom” t-shirt when I went to visit my family on kibbutz a few days later. My cousin’s seventeen year old daughter,who is doing a year of community service work before her army service begins, had been onstage with her service cohort during the Rabin memorial. When she saw my t-shirt, she told me she’d seen a sea of them in the crowd in Rabin Square. That’s Israel in November, 2010: lots to worry about, lots of reasons for hope, and a sea of blue t-shirts speaking out and standing up for democracy in Israel.