update deskIsrael at War

‘Nobody should burn the country down'

‘We are a great nation’: Bereaved father slams anti-government protesters

Hagay Lober, who son Elisha Yehonatan was killed in action in Gaza, says they are hijacking the captives' cause to try to bring the government down.

Hagay Lober holds a placard in Jerusalem depicting his son Staff Sgt. (res.) Elisha Yehonatan Lober, who was killed action in Gaza in December, and reading, "Enough of the demonstrations and the violent discourse, March 31, 2024. Source: Social media.
Hagay Lober holds a placard in Jerusalem depicting his son Staff Sgt. (res.) Elisha Yehonatan Lober, who was killed action in Gaza in December, and reading, "Enough of the demonstrations and the violent discourse, March 31, 2024. Source: Social media.

The father of an Israeli Defense Forces soldier killed in action in the Gaza Strip has denounced renewed anti-government protests, accusing demonstrators of using the plight of bereaved families and the relatives of hostages to further their political aims.

“Nobody should burn the country down,” Hagay Lober, whose son Staff Sgt. (res.) Elisha Yehonatan Lober, 24, was killed in the southern Gaza Strip in December, wrote in a viral Facebook post on Sunday.

“You cannot dismantle the country. You cannot riot. You cannot block roads. You cannot clash with the police. You cannot call for military [refusal to serve]. You cannot attempt to break into the prime minister’s house,” added Lober.

He spoke after protesters gathered at the Knesset on Sunday night, demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign and agree to early elections. A day earlier, some families of hostages announced that they would join forces with those calling to overthrow the government.

“I was completely shocked that people were speaking like this after October 7. It felt like a second knock at my door. The first knock was the army coming to tell me that Yehonatan fell in battle in Gaza,” Lober told JNS on Tuesday.

“I am not a fighter. All I have is my Facebook page, so I wrote what I needed to say. I felt that I had the right as a bereaved parent to tell the hostage families to stop this. We are brothers, we only have one country. We should do things right. After, I was happy to see that the majority of people in Israel think like me,” he added.

On Saturday night, 16 people were arrested in Tel Aviv for blocking roads and violating public order. Protesters also clashed with police in Jerusalem, where some 200 people broke through barriers to protest near Netanyahu’s official residence, and in Caesarea, where they blocked roads close to the premier’s private home.

The demonstrators called for the prime minister to resign in a familiar chant heard during the protests against judicial reform in the months preceding Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.

“My main message is stop the madness, we will not burn things down. We will state our opinion calmly. I don’t agree with a lot of things but in times of war, I am there for my country and I send my kids to fight, like everyone else,” Lober told JNS.

“We need to put things aside the way we did on October 7 and in the days following the attacks. We should focus on the war and let our army do its job. Right now, we must back our soldiers and comfort each other,” he continued.

“In times of elections, everyone can speak and vote for whoever they deem qualified to lead the country. We live in a democracy, and the best way to demonstrate is at the polls. They cannot say that the blood of the victims is on the hands of the government. That is not acceptable, not in these times,” added Lober.

In his viral post, Lober expressed his opinion that “Yehonatan was killed because of the Oslo Accords, which some of you supported. In my opinion, Yonatan was killed because of the disengagement [from Gaza in 2005], which some of you encouraged with banners of support at the entrance to the kibbutzim.

“And yet, I don’t shout at you in the streets. I don’t block your path. I don’t refuse a [military] order. I don’t transfer my money overseas. I don’t curse your public representatives who still support all these disasters. I send and will send my sons to fight,” he said.

As some hostage families joined Brothers in Arms and the Kaplan Force for a four-day demonstration outside the Knesset, Lober accused them of hijacking the cause of freeing the captives.

“And to the ‘Kaplanistim,’ to the Brothers in Arms, to the [Ehud] Barak supporters and [Ehud] Olmert supporters who want to overthrow Bibi [Netanyahu], I say: ‘Don’t hitch a ride on the pain of the families,’” wrote Lober.

“Stop, for God’s sake, for the country’s sake, for victory’s sake. And if not, I and others will be there. Bereaved families, injured soldiers and hostage families who think differently. We will stand together in the face of anarchy. And we won’t let you. We just won’t,” he concluded.

‘We should focus on life’

In January, Lober, a rabbi and an actor, made the headlines for ‘‘October 7,” a play he wrote about grief that was performed exactly 30 days after his son was killed in action.

“I swore on the open grave of Yehonatan that I would not let this madness happen again, I will block it so that we do not go back to October 6,” Lober told JNS.

“I had four kids fighting in Gaza including Yehonatan, and now I have three. When the [military officials] stood at my doorway, I knew one of them had died, so I asked them which one. They said it was Yehonatan, and the world stopped for me at that moment.

“I want this to be an example for our nation,” continued Lober. “We are not broken; we feel pain, but we are strong. Yehonatan’s son was born after he was killed. His wife was pregnant when he fell in battle. We are focusing on him now. We should focus on life.

“Those we lost give us strength to do so. If our enemies think they can defeat us they will think again because we are strong. We are a great nation,” he said.

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