Dozens of protesters held a rally in Jerusalem’s Independence Park on Monday night, across the street from the US consulate, to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump during his visit to Israel.
The president arrived in the country earlier Monday and was received warmly by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
The protesters said they sought to show the president that despite Israeli officials’ warm words and embraces, many in Israel and the Jewish world strongly oppose his presidency.
“A lot of people are angered by the narrative that there’s this love affair between Israel and Trump and between Jews and Trump. Hopefully we can dispel that tonight by showing that there is a strong Jewish and Israeli resistance,” said event organizer Jacob Fortinsky.
Protesters chanted against Trump and held signs condemning the president’s policies on healthcare, the environment, women’s reproductive rights, as well as his alleged entanglements with Russia. Law enforcement officials and Congress are in the midst of separate investigations into suspicions members of Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with the Russians to tip the elections in 2016.
When Fortinsky set up the event several weeks ago, he said, he expected mainly friends and acquaintances to attend, but the rally soon found traction among Israelis, Americans and Europeans in Israel and, according to him, several hundred demonstrators attended.
Democrats Abroad, the arm of the party for Americans living overseas, sponsored the event, which featured speakers including local Jerusalem politicians and religious leaders.
The protest, Fortinsky said, was not meant to oppose Trump’s stance towards Israel or Jews, but what the demonstrators see as Trump’s larger failings, including his intolerant rhetoric against immigrants and refugees, nepotism and his potential collusion with Russia.
“There are people here who think Trump can do good for Israel and there are people here who think Trump is bad for Israel. What unites us isn’t our views about Trump’s positions on Israel but rather what Trump stands for in general,” said Fortinsky, a native New Yorker. “The hatred he has inspired in America, the incompetence, the potential corruption.”
Several passersby, both Israeli and foreign, heckled the protesters with pro-Trump slogans of their own, while others stood by and watched. Border Police officers and a barrier kept the two groups separate.
Shimon Edelson, an American student living in Jerusalem, criticized the protest and highlighted the support he has seen for Trump in the Orthodox Jewish community and the president’s visit to the Western Wall Monday.
“The first president to go to the Kotel while he was sitting in office, that was a very inspirational feeling for me,” Edelson said. “I don’t know what Trump’s making great again and what he’s not, but one thing is for sure, he’s been good to the Jews.”