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‘Democracies fall slowly and quietly’: Thousands protest near President’s Residence in Jerusalem

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Protesters against the Netanyahu-led government gather outside the President's Residence in Jerusalem, January 21, 2023. (AH/Times of Israel)
Protesters against the Netanyahu-led government gather outside the President's Residence in Jerusalem, January 21, 2023. (AH/Times of Israel)

Thousands of people are gathered on Hanassi Street in Jerusalem, near the President’s Residence for a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and its intended judicial overhaul.

The protesters, many of whom are carrying Israeli flags, are chanting “The people are determined: This is not Iran,” “We’re setting a red line for [Justice Minister Yariv] Levin,” “We won’t be silent as long as there is inequality,” and simply “Democracy.”

“Governance is not the same as tyranny,” and “Red line: Right and left against the destruction,” some banners read.

A student band performs followed by speakers, including several students, as well as Shaul Meridor, a former senior Treasury official and son of former Likud minister Dan Meridor.

“Democracies fall slowly and quietly,” says Meridor. “We have to fight and battle. This isn’t about Arab or Jew, religious or secular, this is our house that we have to protect.”

Judge Nava Ben-Or, former head of the Jerusalem district court, lists the judicial reforms suggested by the government, enumerating the ways in which they ignore the basic tenets of democracy.

Other speakers vow to “unify the elements” of Israeli society… against the Netanyahu government’s efforts to carry out a constitutional coup,” and promise, “We’ll be here every week… every Saturday night, protecting the state.”

The crowd includes families with young children; many participants are wearing kippot.

A handful of pro-Netanyahu protesters with banners reading “leftist traitors” hold a counter-demonstration, but are kept away from the main protest by police.

The demonstration ends with the national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

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