TEL AVIV (JTA) — Avigail Arnheim has been protesting Benjamin Netanyahu for years, starting with the demonstrations in Jerusalem that began in 2020, calling on him to resign as Israel’s prime minister.
When Netanyahu returned to office in December, Arnheim again took to the streets — this time to protest Netanyahu’s attempt to sap the Israeli Supreme Court of its power. And now, she comes armed with what she sees as a potent symbol: an Israeli flag emblazoned with the words of the country’s Declaration of Independence.
“I feel that the people of Israel woke up, and finally understands that life needs to come with values, with morals and with caring,” she said at a mass protest Tuesday night in Tel Aviv, as Israel began celebrating its 75th Independence Day. Arnheim believes those ideas are reflected in the declaration, which was signed on the day of Israel’s founding, traces the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and pledges democracy and human rights.
She added, “I think that the meaning of the flag has received a place in a society that wasn’t aware of it for a long time.”
Seeing the streets of Israel festooned with flags is one of the hallmarks of the country’s Independence Day, called Yom Haatzmaut in Hebrew. It’s common for flags to line streets and hang from balconies. A popular children’s song sung on the holiday begins, “The whole land is flags.”
But this year, Israel’s quintessential national symbol has taken on a different meaning for some, as the hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters have, for months, made the flag the icon of their cause. The flag has become so associated with the protests that Zichron Yaakov, a city north of Tel Aviv, briefly banned the flag and images of the Declaration of Independence from its Independence Day parade.
Voices on the right have chafed against the idea that the flag now indicates opposition to the government. But there was little, if any, skepticism about that idea on the streets of Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, where protesters enthusiastically adapted a range of Independence Day traditions to express their opinions.
Some protesters viewed their embrace of the flag as a corrective that now allows the flag to represent what they see as Israel’s founding aspirations, following years during which it was perceived as a symbol of Israel’s right wing. Before this year’s protests, another prominent political association for the flag was with religious nationalists who hold an annual “flag march” in Jerusalem’s Old City that has stoked Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
“It’s a symbol that had been hijacked for way too long by the right,” said Roy Rob, a graphic designer at the Tel Aviv rally who splits his time between Israel and Brooklyn. “It’s the same in the States: The American flag has really been hijacked and pigeonholed.”
Regarding the Israeli flag, he added, “Now it’s being democratized again. It makes sense that the people who really care about the origin of Israel, what Israel is all about, use the original symbols of it.”
Some right-wingers aren’t ready to yield Israel’s national symbols. Gideon Dokov, an editor at the right-leaning newspaper Makor Rishon, called the idea that the flag represents opposition to the judicial overhaul “absurd.”
“By mistake or intentionally, it seems that in recent months, there are those who are trying to take ownership of the national symbols — the flag and the Declaration of Independence — on behalf of the protests, just as they’re trying to take ownership of [the concept of] democracy,” Dokov wrote earlier this month. “Both are incorrect.”
In any case, flags were ubiquitous at Tuesday night’s protest. When asked where they got theirs, several protesters made a perplexed face that seemed to ask, “Where have you been all this time?”
The flags, they said, aren’t hard to get. Many were distributed for free at earlier protests, along with black T-shirts that read, “De-mo-cra-cy” in Hebrew block letters, copying the central chant of the demonstrations. Other shirts, like Rob’s, which read, “There’s no democracy with occupation,” were also distributed by activist groups at earlier protests. Many flags included the phrase “Free in our land,” which comes from Israel’s national anthem.
Others already had flags at home, and some bought them recently. At the protest, a man who was selling the flags and other assorted tchotchkes out of a stuffed shopping cart said the flag itself, without a pole, costs around $5.50. He said he bought his merchandise from stores and was reselling it, but would not provide further details.
The flags with the Declaration of Independence text, Arnheim said, went for about $13.75 and were sold by their creator via group chats used to organize the protests. Nati Hochberg, who traveled from a town north of Tel Aviv to demonstrate, said he bought his flag (with pole) for some $11 at a hardware store, after someone stole a previous flag of his from his motorcycle.
“We’ve taken back what belongs to us,” Hochberg said of the flag. His friend Tal Vardi, who traveled with him and has had his flag for years, added, “This population for many years ceded these symbols and now it’s taking them back. … I don’t know if it happened coincidentally, but it’s a feeling that it also belongs to us.”
That the flag has turned into a protest symbol, said one woman from northern Israel who declined to give her name, elicits a mixture of “pride and sadness” regarding the political conflict raging in the country.
“It’s clearly preferable for this not to be,” she said while holding a flag identical to Arnheim’s. “But if it is like this, at least the flag should have meaning.”
The protesters didn’t shy away from adapting other Independence Day pastimes, either. A white, foamy spray traditionally blasted by children on the holiday was being rebranded at the protest as “democracy snow” (one big can for about $2.75).
At a less crowded area of the protest, someone used the spray to spell out “democracy” in large letters on the ground. On a nearby bicycle path, the word “Leave,” used as a chant against Netanyahu, was also written in the spray. A cyclist stopped short before running it over.
Soft plastic hammers, another holiday mainstay, were also visible throughout the crowd. And a DJ blasted classic Israeli dance music in the middle of the demonstration, including the American Jewish summer camp favorite “Zodiac,” sung by Yaron Hadad.
In general, signs of the protests freckle Tel Aviv, which has been the nerve center of the demonstrations and the bastion of Israel’s left-wing minority. Municipal bus stops bear signs playing on the words of the national anthem and implying that the protests will keep Israel “Free from racism,” “Free from repression of women” and more. Graffiti supporting the protests — such as “Bibi is a traitor” — also isn’t hard to find, though there is also a smattering of pro-overhaul graffiti such as one message calling Israel’s Supreme Court a dictatorship.
Some paraphernalia at the demonstration trumpeted specific causes, like an LGBTQ pride flag, a flag that spelled out “democracy” in the colors of the Israeli and Palestinian flags, or a T-shirt, given out by an self-styled “moderate majority” activist group, that read “I [heart] Bagatz,” the Hebrew acronym for the Supreme Court.
Some participants got more creative. At a table in a sparse area, a few people offered free alcohol to passersby while a young man using a megaphone sang “Democracy and arak” to the tune of the famous riff from the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
The idea, his colleague Ron said, was to give people free drinks to celebrate the country and the protests — which they hope will preserve the possibility for young people to get an education and find dignified work.
“In general, this is our last shot to save democracy, so everyone who wants to save democracy gets a shot as a gift from us,” said Ron, 23, who declined to give his last name. ”We love everyone, and we love democracy.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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