Deathly Fear on the Plaza

20 May 2015
In The Media

I feel like I’ve woken up from a bad dream, a dream in which a huge monster is attacking me. I want to run away, but my feet refuse to move. It’s as if they are tied to a metal pole or trapped under a boulder.

That’s how I felt last night in sight of the riot police on horseback, armed with weapons of war that we recognize from other places, and next to them thousands of police patrolmen. From time to time an ambulance emerged, their sirens signaling that the end was approaching. The end of me. Yes. I was deathly afraid. I was afraid that the righteous struggle would end in death.

I saw that the policemen were doing all they could to lead to such an end. For example, throwing a volley of stun grenades into the middle of the plaza, into the circle where people stood consulting with one another, where I stood speaking with members of my family.

The sea of text messages and telephone calls from home only unnerved me more. Friends and family sat at home and watched more distorted media coverage on television, which told a story that reversed the actors: victims were called attackers, and attackers became victims.

The moment in which my spirit was almost broken happened around 10:30 at night. Relative calm prevailed. My brother and I stood at the corner of Ibn Gvirol and Bloch Streets when suddenly riot police on horseback emerged and closed in on dozens of us, mainly young women, standing completely quietly.
The policemen on the horses surrounded us and pushed us into a corner for minutes that seemed like forever. Only when the horses tired of standing on their hind legs, the policemen moved away. As I was trying to catch my breath, the policemen shot a powerful stream of water at us. The media were not present there. They were busy on a mission in the service of the police.

In moments of respite I looked around me and saw that my white friends hadn’t come to the demonstration. The friends of the rest of the demonstrators also remained at home. “Yes. It’s a righteous struggle – but it’s not right, or it wouldn’t help, to demonstrate,” they said as excuses. They reminded me of the words of the greatest of the freedom fighter, Martin Luther King:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

My white friends, next time don’t just send me text messages. Join me to claim the right to life, the right to dignity, the right of my children to freedom as yours have.

Shula Mola is Chairperson of the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews.

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