Hundreds of Israeli put aside their political differences to study Torah this week at an outdoor study tent established at the heart of the anti-government protests in Tel Aviv.
The “Havruta on Kaplan” or “Fellowship on Kaplan” initiative is named after the central Tel Aviv thoroughfare where demonstrations against the government’s judicial reform program have been taking place for months.
“We put up a tent in the heart of Tel Aviv and began to study Torah, men and women, young people and adults,” said Itamar Chen, one of the group organizers.
Several prominent modern Orthodox rabbis taught two classes during the daytime, while cold drinks and pizza were handed out to protesters who opposed the viewpoints of some of the speakers.
“During the day there were classes offered by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the chief rabbi of Samaria, and one by Rabbi David Fendel, the rabbi of Sderot and the head of the Rabbinical Court for Monetary Affairs in Sderot,” explained Chen.
“We sat in circles, we listened to each other, we shared with them and they shared with us. And the initiative? It reached its goals,” he added.
Last month, the Tel Aviv Municipality announced the renaming of a section of Kaplan Street as “Democracy Square” in honor of the weekly Saturday night protests there, which have often spilled over into illegally blocking the nearby Ayalon Highway (Route 20).
“In the 75th year of the State of Israel, it has become clear, completely contrary to everything we thought, that its democracy is not something taken for granted,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai wrote on Twitter.
“And we are here to remind everyone, again and again, that Israel has no right to exist as a country, as a society, as an idea, without democracy.”
On July 23, an estimated 200,000 supporters of the reform initiative converged on Kaplan Street for the “March of the Million” mega-rally.
The previous large-scale protest in support of judicial reform, which took place near the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 27, was attended by some 600,000 people.