Shocked by the unprecedented scenes of violence between Jews and Arabs over recent days, thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Thursday, May 13 to push back and call for calm and peaceful coexistence. Among them were many activists from Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel.
In West Jerusalem, hundreds rallied with the Yad b’Yad (Hand in Hand) organization at the Oranim junction in the south of the city and at the former Mashbir department store in the downtown area. Hand in Hand is a non-profit organization that runs several Jewish-Arab schools, including one in Jerusalem.
Earlier in the day, some 300 school principals and educators rallied for coexistence and against violence in front of the Knesset in an event organized by the Branco Weiss School Principals Forum. Another rally of educators was scheduled for the ethnically-mixed city of Lod, where some of the worst internecine violence had taken place during the previous 48 hours.
Crowds also gathered at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, the Hemed junction near Jerusalem, in Ramat Aviv in north Tel Aviv, near Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, at the Yuvalim junction near Sakhnin, in the Clock Tower Square in Jaffa, at the Horev Center in Haifa, in the center of Kfar Saba, at Derech Habanim in Pardes Hanna-Karkur and in the northern village of Basmat Tab’un. Also in the north, Jews and Arabs rallying at the Nahalal and Jish (Gush Halav) junctions proclaimed their determination that their shared life will not be impeded.
The Tag Meir organization, which campaigns against hate, handed out thousands of flowers at locations throughout the country, from the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba in central Israel and the Arab town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, to the Fureidis, Jish and the Nahalal junctions. Also on Thursday, city council members from Acre, Lod, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramle and other mixed Jewish-Arab cities issued a joint call for calm as part of an effort by the Abraham Initiatives and Sikkuy, which works for equality between the two peoples, according to Zo Haderech. Leaders of both communities also came together in northern Israel and in the Negev to call for an end to the violence.
Visiting the central city of Lod, which has been the scene of major Jewish-Arab riots over the past few days, far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he would approve fascist measures to quell the violence seen across Israel, including deploying military forces in mixed cities. Netanyahu also proposed the use of administrative detention, an anti-democratic measure commonly deployed against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Administrative detention enables authorities to detain people for extended periods of time without leveling formal charges against them, in a practice decried because is undemocratic and abusive.
In a dramatic decision Thursday that remakes Israel’s coalition-building arithmetic, far-right Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett ruled out the option of forming a government with liberal Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid that would replace Netanyahu, citing the chaos in numerous cities. “When there is a wave of pogroms by Arabs across the country, and when Israel’s military must be involved, this is a reality-changing event,” he said, according to Haaretz. “The ‘change government’ being formed won’t be able to deal with that.”