JERUSALEM — Just when Israeli democracy most needed saviors, they materialized.
No one saw where they came from. They just appeared amid the thousands of horn-blowing, pot-banging protesters in Jerusalem: seven caped superheroes in matching pink spandex, striking Superman poses and going through coordinated dance moves as they advanced toward the protest’s focal point at the official residence of the man known here as the “crime minister.” One superhero with a megaphone led her comrades in a chant about “hope” and “democracy,” and everyone cheered, but I couldn’t hear much more because of the guy next to me and his accordion.
The protests growing since early summer outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem on Balfour Street, and smaller demonstrations across the country, have given Israel’s battered moderate camp an outlet for its political energies and grievances — an outlet outside Parliament, that is, where its representatives are hapless, impotent and divided. The trigger was the government’s failure to deal with the coronavirus crisis. But if you’re on the streets, you know there’s a lot more going on.
The main protests at Balfour Street happen Saturday nights, but there’s also one on Friday afternoons, before Jerusalem shuts down for the Sabbath. When I arrived last Friday, an anti-corruption crusader was riling up a few thousand people with a list of grievances: an economy controlled by monopolies and tycoons, ludicrous housing prices, packed classrooms, a leadership so out of touch that the wealthy Mr. Netanyahu just voted himself a personal tax break.
The speaker compared the compliant watchdogs of the Israeli government to the horse appointed consul by the mad emperor Caligula. He quoted a Nigerian writer. Things were getting a bit obscure, but the tone was the point, not the content, and the crowd was on board. A key feature of these protests is the signs that people make at home, and my view was momentarily obscured by a woman with a green sock affixed to a piece of cardboard. The sign read, “My sock would do a better job than Bibi — and it’s clean.” …
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