A group of nearly 150 people gathered outside the home of Professor Ze'ev Sternhell in central Jerusalem on Thursday evening in a show of solidarity with the left-wing academic who was targeted with a pipe-bomb last week.
"Your presence here demonstrates clearly that we can do this, that we will not live in fear, that we will not be intimidated," Sternhell told the crowd.
The support rally drew the participation of prominent figures from various left-wing groups, who welcomed Sternhell with thundering applause. "My dear friends, I wish to thank you for taking these matters of state and society to heart. This society has a problem, and it is one that we must deal," he went on to say.
Demonstrators outside Sternhell's home (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I have been following this path for decades, and I will continue to fight for peace, against the problem of the territories and for the quality of the society in which we live. I'm glad you're here, and I thank you."
Amongst the protestors was Professor Naomi Chazan, president of the New Israel Fund and former MK on behalf of Meretz. Chazan hailed the rally as extremely significant. "This is the beginning of a civilian uprising, of those who understand that if violence has become the norm – we have become lost. We must fight for the rules of the democratic game because if there is violence within us we can close up shop. This is what happened in other democracies in the past, which fell for this reason, and we must not allow it to happen here," she said.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, a leading Reform group, connected to the rally to the Fast of Gedalia – which commences today.
"Our coming together here on this day is not fortuitous. The Fast of Gedalia is the only Jewish holy day that does not center on foreign enemies, but rather on domestic actions," said Kariv, adding that it was imperative to learn from the past.
"We are here to warn that if we do not have the presence of mind to stop the violent zealots, we will find ourselves in the same situation the Jews were after the destruction (of the first Temple in Jerusalem) following the murder of Gedalia son of Achikam, or alternately, where Israeli society was 12 years ago after the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin."
Machsom Watch activist Ronny Perlman said she felt compelled to come to the demonstration "because freedom of expression and opinion is one of the most basic of human rights. The threat Professor Sternhell faces is not just against him, it is against all those who are not passive, who do not just sit at home."