Teen trek against Israel’s failure to stop Hamas reaches Knesset

Today marks the last day of a youth protest march organized by teenagers from the Gaza belt. Their destination is Wohl Rose Park opposite the Knesset. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Today marks the final day of the youth march organized by 12th graders from the Gaza belt against the government’s failure to stop Hamas attacks from the Gaza Strip. Its final destination is the Knesset.

Hundreds from across the country have joined the youth in solidarity. An expected 2,000 more will meet them at Wohl Rose Park directly across from Israel’s parliament this afternoon.

Demanding “a real change, a practical solution and a better future,” over 150 teens are marching some 90 kilometers from their communities near the Gaza Strip to the Knesset in Jerusalem.

The trek, which began at the Sapir College campus in Sderot, became harder due to the start of the rainy season. The teens received encouragement and support in a number of ways.

On Monday, at Moshav Lachish, an agricultural village in the northern Negev, Vicky Knafo was waiting to greet them. Knafo, famous in Israel for her solitary trek 15 years ago from her home in Mitzpeh Ramon to the capital – an even longer march – to protest a government cut in subsidies for single mothers, wanted to show how much she appreciated their struggle to be heard.

“I stand before you here and I’m filled with pride,” Knafo said. “It makes me emotional to see that today, too, after so many years, people still go out on protest marches, and even more so the young people. …. I want to tell you: Don’t let anyone stop you!”

She warned them not to allow anyone to politicize the event but to remain proud of their initiative, “even if you didn’t achieve a thing – because you deserve to live in peace and security and that the government takes care of you.”

Support from bereaved parents

Others, including youth from across the country, have been offering emotional support by promising to join the march and go to Jerusalem for the demonstration.

Representatives of bereaved parents of soldiers who died in Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 summer war with Hamas, also offered encouragement. One of them, Ofer Mendlowitz, who lost a son in the Golani brigade, said:

“We will join them not to express a political stance but to … support them and sharpen our  message that we, the bereaved parents of the Tzuk Eitan war, whose sons sacrificed their lives for the security of those who live in the Gaza envelope, want to return [to them] the quiet for which our sons fought and fell – a quiet too short considering our great and heavy loss,” Mendlowitz said, according to a Ynet report.

The teens started off on Sunday while, in parallel, their friends and neighbors protested the government’s apparent lack of sufficient action to stop the Hamas terror by blocking a highway that leads to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.

At a protest in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, hundreds of demonstrators sounded a simulated Code Red siren, which gives civilians 15-to-30 seconds to reach a shelter before a rocket lands, and lay on the ground to demonstrate what they have been experiencing over the past 17 years.

The organizers of the teen march are 12th graders from the Sha’ar HaNegev high school. Their goal is to raise awareness about the massive fires started by balloon arsonists, the violent protests organized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad at the border fence, and the sirens. It is in no way political, they insist.

‘We want to grow up quietly’

As Nitzan Ben Shoshan told Israel Hayom when the march began, “Our agenda is very simple. We, the youth who were born into this, want to grow up quietly; we don’t want to be invisible … When they [terrorists] shot a rocket at Beersheba, they [Israeli authorities] suddenly closed our schools, but when every night we have a fire and rockets, nobody knows and nobody sees.”

These youth are echoing eight of their fellow high schoolers who began a successful Instagram account about two weeks ago depicting life under constant threat of terrorism. Tens of thousands of people follow their posts on the social media site.