Singer intervenes as anti-overhaul protesters heckle Gallant during speech

Yehoram Gaon takes stage to calm and condemn protest against defense minister during event marking Yom Kippur War anniversary, telling activists, ‘What you’re doing now is a ‘Shame’

Performer Yehoram Gaon comes to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's defense as protesters decry the coalition's judicial overhaul, in Ein Gev, October 2, 2023. (Screenshot/used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Performer Yehoram Gaon comes to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's defense as protesters decry the coalition's judicial overhaul, in Ein Gev, October 2, 2023. (Screenshot/used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

A prominent singer intervened as protesters opposed to the government’s judicial overhaul heckled Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a speech on Monday.

A small group of activists stood up from the crowd and chanted “democracy,” a slogan of the protest movement, at Gallant as he spoke during a festival marking 50 years since the Yom Kippur War at the Ein Gev kibbutz in northern Israel.

As Gallant attempted to speak over the activists’ chants, entertainer Yehoram Gaon took the stage to calm the waters and condemn the protesters.

“My friends, this evening we have come to draw inspiration from wonderful days, days of togetherness,” Gaon said. “What you’re doing now is a ‘Shame’,” he added, invoking anti-overhaul protesters’ oft-used slogan.

Gaon, the event’s host, descended from the stage to applause from the audience. Gallant thanked the singer and finished his speech after the brief protest.

The festival marked the anniversary of the war under the title, “We must continue to play music,” and featured Gaon, other performers and a military band.

The music included new renditions of songs composed around the time of the war.

Gaon, 83, is a Jerusalem-born singer, actor, director, producer, TV and radio host, and public figure.

In 2017, he was selected to light a ceremonial torch at the national Independence Day celebration for his “significant contribution to Jerusalem” through his songs and plays, and his voluntary work for the city’s municipality.

Gallant is a moderate in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. In March, Gallant publicly called for a halt to the judicial legislation, saying it had opened a rift in society that threatened Israel’s security. Netanyahu fired Gallant, setting off massive protests around the country, then reinstated him as defense minister.

Protesters on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv hold a sign declaring ‘You won’t divide us!,’ September 30, 2023. (Amir Goldstein)

Protesters opposed to the government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul bid, which would remove many of the High Court of Justice’s checks and balances on government power, have held sustained, large-scale demonstrations for nearly 10 months.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people rallied nationwide against the overhaul for the 39th consecutive week.

Anti-overhaul demonstrations have also regularly targeted members of the government with protests and heckling outside their homes and throughout the country at public and private events.

Some 200 people held a protest on Monday at the Golan Heights resort village of Neve Ativ, where Netanyahu and his wife Sara were vacationing for the Sukkot holiday.

Anti-overhaul activists demonstrate outside the hotel in Neve Ativ where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are vacationing, in the Golan Heights, October 2, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s hardline coalition passed the first major piece of legislation in the overhaul in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions and appointments based on the doctrine of reasonableness.

Last month, an unprecedented panel of all 15 justices presided over a highly charged session in response to petitions against the law. A decision is not expected for weeks or months.

Legislation that gives the coalition almost complete control of the Judicial Selection Committee, and thus of appointing Israel’s judges, passed its first reading in March and could be passed at short notice at any time.

Netanyahu has said recently he plans to change the makeup of the panel but will seek a compromise on the matter.

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