BALFOUR OF HOPE AND DESPAIR
For nine months in a row, Israel experienced one of the most extended mass protest waves it has ever known. Every week from June 2020 to March 2021, thousands of people demonstrated against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces an ongoing trial with indictments of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. Amid the Covid-19 crisis, which brought Israel to a new socioeconomic low, people demonstrated in almost every city, road intersection, and overpass across the country. However, the unquestionable heart of the protest was Balfour Street in Jerusalem, where the main demonstration took place every Saturday night outside Netanyahu’s official residence. Young and old, from all sides of the political spectrum, shared a clear demand - his immediate resignation.
But the true nature of this protest is far more complex and less tangible. Netanyahu’s legal status and the erosion of the democratic values of government institutions have brought many issues to the surface: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the growing social gaps, and gross injustice. All of these are deeply rooted in the country’s history and, for the protesters, they simply can not be ignored any longer, though facing police brutality and physical and verbal violence by Netanyahu's supporters. For many, driven by unbearable despair and great hope, this fight was over the country’s democratic future.
These “Anarchists”, “Disease spreaders”, “Aliens”, as Netanyahu and his family called them, are people breaking out of silence.
After months of unrest, and as Israel faced the fourth election in two years, Balfour Street was not only a pilgrimage center for the people fighting against corruption. It became a symbol of the fight over the very essence of Israel.