On Saturday night, hundreds of Israelis attended a rally in the center of Jerusalem entitled “There is no comfort in revenge,” to protest the escalating violence in the country. The demonstration in Hamashbir Square was arranged by three grassroots activist groups -Free Jerusalem, Jerusalem Won’t Remain Quiet About Racism, and The Young Guard, who wanted to make a statement against the cycle of violence and terror that is plaguing Israel. The New Israel Fund and Shatil provided financial assistance and advice on staging the rally and many of those who attended and spoke were NIF activists.
“The mood was somber and discussed the consequences of violence and intolerance from a personal and moral rather than political point of view,” said Shmulik David, Shatil’s consultant on policy change who attended the rally. “A small number of right-wing demonstrators heckled the speakers but their voices were drowned out.”
A large number of those who attended the rally were Orthodox Jews who cited Old Testament sources to support the message of human dignity, tolerance, and mutual respect for all the region’s peoples and warn of the dangers of racism, incitement to revenge and violence.
Two of the principle speakers were from the NIF family – Batya Kahana Dror, who founded Mavoi Satum that fights for the rights of women unable to obtain a religious divorce, and Gadi Gvaryahu, chairman of the NIF-convened Tag Meir coalition. The two other speakers were Jerusalem activist Rabbi David Menachem and Yigal Elchanan, whose sister was killed in a terrorist attack 18 years ago in Jerusalem.
Gvaryahu said, “Man was created as an individual to teach us that to lose one person is to lose an entire world, while to save one person is to save an entire world. Every family murdered or burned and every person murdered or burned is an entire world and we call on everyone to stop this cycle of bloodshed. Revenge is no comfort. Those who shout “Death to Arabs” in the streets of Jerusalem are no different from those who shout “Slaughter the Jews.”
He concluded, “Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta said in the last Mishnah of the Tractate Uktzin’ The Almighty does not have any other tool to keep a blessing for Israel, but Peace! The Almighty gives strength to His people, the Almighty blesses His people with Peace.'”