Demonstrating for democracy

Community joins protests outside of Israeli Embassy

Protesters stand outside the Israeli embassy on March 26.

Eli Gale

Protesters stand outside the Israeli embassy on March 26.

This spring, hundreds of people rallied in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms. The plan, which Netanyahu has paused in pursuing, would give the ruling government more power over judicial selections and allow the government to override Supreme Court decisions.

Several CESJDS community members have participated in the rallies, like Israeli sophomore Noga Lemann. She played a part in organizing the protests, including one on March 26. Inspired by other countries that are holding rallies against judicial reform and her parents who have been attending protests in Israel, Lemann decided to take action.

For Lemann, being able to attend the protest made her feel like she was contributing to the cause rather than just watching things take place.

“It’s like when you go to Israel, and it feels magical and like the air is different; that’s how I feel when I go to Israel,” Lemann said. “It kind of felt like that because everyone is protesting for the same reason, and screaming and saying what we believe in.”

In Lemann’s view, the proposed judicial reforms would threaten the existence of the state of Israel as a democratic nation for the Jewish people. At the rally on March 26, Lemann had the opportunity to be interviewed for an Israeli news program on the channel “Reshet 13,” where she expressed these views.

Another member of the JDS community who shares similar views as Lemann is Scott Gale, father of alumnus Joshua Gale (‘23) and sophomore Eli Gale, who also helped organize and participated in the rally.

“I feel very strongly that for Israel to prosper, it needs to be a real Western democracy, and the proposed overhaul of their judicial system would mean that they would no longer be what we would consider to be a true Western democracy,” Scott said.

Scott also attended protests in Israel when visiting his son, Joshua, on the Irene and Daniel Simpkins Israel Capstone Trip.

“You could really feel in both places that people were very concerned, very committed,” Scott said.

At JDS, community members are exposed to and educated about the current issues facing Israel. Jewish History Department Chair Dan Rosenthal said that one of JDS’ main duties is to aid students in developing their own views regarding international affairs. He expressed his admiration for the school’s success in providing tools for students that enable them to create their own identity and views.

“Really the most important thing that the school does is it gives students those tools to really make a difference for themselves and to figure out how each student wants to make a difference in their own way, whether Jewish-ly or in a more general way,” Rosenthal said.

Attending rallies is only one way for members of the JDS community to get involved in Israeli current events. Education is another crucial component to being part of the discussion and immersing oneself in the current events, according to Rosenthal.

“My hope for my students really is that they are able to parse this really, really complicated debate and discussion,” Rosenthal said. “The issues are really complex.”