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Yaffa’s revolutionary spirit… flaring from prisoners’ support to defense of women’s lives

“Are you envious?” – This is what Iris asked me while we were waiting in Taibeh for the bus from Yaffa to come with the demonstrators… “No”, was my answer, “seeing such wonderful things happening in such places around us like Yaffa and Akka makes me happy. It shows that we are doing the right things.”

Revolution in one square – but how lovely!

What was happening in Yaffa over the last months was very special. As a response to hunger strikes by Palestinian political prisoners, led by Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, the youth activists in Yaffa declared a permanent daily demonstration is the clock’s square, beginning Sunday, February 3, 2013.

They kept demonstrating every evening for 47 consecutive days. Open meetings before or after the daily demonstrations proved a volcano of creativity. Every detail was discussed. New measures were taken to add interest and effectiveness. New activists were joining daily and many simply stayed as part of the group. After 47 days, as many activists were completely exhausted and out-of-focus with their work, study and family obligations, they decided to switch to weekly demonstrations (every Thursday), with a view to reach out to convey the new Yaffa spirit to other places and organizations.

The slogans, of course, were both democratic and revolutionary (but generally avoided unnecessary exaggerations). But does the intensity of the demonstrations merit the “revolutionary” designation? Isn’t revolution about the falling of governments?

Well, many governments fall without revolutionary movements. And an essential aspect of the revolutionary movement is the intense involvement of the masses, which creates a different thermo-dynamics of the Human matter. In Yaffa, over a relatively short period, the intensity of the involvement of the cadres created new dynamics, accumulating experiences, consciousness and energies.

These new dynamics, now organized also in Facebook in a group called “The Activists of the Clock Square”, were expressed in the leading role of the youth and especially women and girls. Jewish activists were assimilated as natural participants in a youthful Palestinian democratic movement under the Palestinian national flag. The first thing about the revolution is how much people can change and achieve in a short period when they are so intensively involved and openly cooperate in the struggle for a just cause.

Exporting the revolution – Junctions of freedom day

For Friday, May 3, the Yaffa activists declared “Junctions of Freedom” day, a moving vigil to spread the message of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

They started at 11:30 with a demonstration in the Clock square, on the home ground. We, coming from Haifa, waited to meet them on the main street of Taibeh at 13:00. Some 60 people came in the bus and some cars from Yaffa, and it was a lively demonstration.

On the next stop, in Kalansawah, the bus entered to the center of the township. It paid the effort, as many bystanders that were astonished by the revolutionary slogans and the chanting youthful demonstrators standing on the central circle of their sleepy township applauded us from their cars and from surrounding pavements or even joined in.

In Bakka AlGharbiya, a town with long experience with Palestinian resistance and political prisoners of its own, local activists and youth were waiting for us in the local circle on the main road. On the Kafr Qara junction, on the main Wadi ‘Ara highway to the north, thousands of cars full with Israelis going north for their weekend vacation, were passing by or waiting the green light while we were waving Palestinian flags and shouting for the freedom of the prisoners.

On the next stop, in Ar’ara, we staged a small march from the junction to the home of the cousins Maher and Karim Younes, who spent more than 30 years in Israeli prisons and Israel still refuses to let them free, not even in the prisoner’s exchange.

The last stop was at 17:00, in front of Mejido military prison, where many Palestinians from the west Bank are held in harsh conditions and where prisoner Arafat Jaradat was killed by torture in the hands of Israeli General Security Service on February 23, 2013.

Yaffa spirits in Um Al-Fahm demo against the killing of women

But this was not the end of this long day of spreading the revolutionary spirit.

On Sunday, April 28, a 30 years old mother of three, Muna Mahajnah was shot dead in her home in Um Al-Fahm, probably on the background of family disputes. Her brother was arrested and accused of killing her.

In response to this murder, a group of local activists called for a protest demo on Friday 3/5 at 18:00 on the first circle on the city’s main entrance. The plan was for the Yaffa bus to continue from Mejido prison and join the demonstration in Um Al-Fahm. But due to the pressing schedule, we didn’t have anything to eat all day, so most of the activist went to look for something to eat before joining the demonstration.

This gave us the rare opportunity to compare the original demonstration to what happened after the Yaffa revolutionaries joined in.

No doubt the most important thing was the voice of the Um Al-Fahm society, mostly young men and women in their teens and twenties, but also whole families, veteran activists and Knesset members from the National Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Front. They all came to speak up, condemn the killing and build public opinion to resist the unjustifiable and destructive violence in their town and in the Arab Palestinian society in general.

There were some 100 people in the demonstration, but when the Yaffa youth joined in, it was not only a matter additional numbers. The female activists with high spirits and great experience in shouting slogans took the lead and converted the demonstration to one of the best feminist protests seen in the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories.

Some slogans from the prisoners struggle could be used “as is” – receiving new meaning in the context. Like “we were not born to live oppressed, we were born to live in freedom!” Many more slogans were adjusted or invented: “Drop your weapon, women will not be intimidated”, “Young man and woman, struggling side by side for liberty”, “whoever beats is the weak one, he has no honor” and much more.

The demonstration warmed up and lasted much beyond the planned time.

Well, maybe I envy after all…