The Wohl Rose
Garden is one of the most beautiful parks in Jerusalem. Through
its center runs a stream, emanating from a small spring and
ending in a duck-filled pond surrounded by a Japanese
garden. Chess tables, statues, an obelisk, a rose-bed maze, and rosebuds of every shape and color
are hidden in the park. The view to
the east from the garden is magnificent - the Nahalaot quarter
and the Valley of the Cross.
The garden is
surrounded by the national symbols of Israel. The Knesset is on its
southern side and the Supreme Court on its northern side. The two
buildings are connected by a straight promenade that runs through
the garden. The offices
of the prime minister, the Treasury, the Ministry of the
Interior, the Bank of Israel, and the Foreign Ministry line the
western side of the park. Due to their proximity to the buildings
housing the Israeli
establishment, the garden's green meadows are a choice site for Israeli demonstrators;
the garden often hosts tent cities of protesters, tables for
petition signing, and banners and placards.
Two demonstrations are
camped out in the garden today. Opposite the prime minister's office
is a group of army reservists, just released from active duty in
Lebanon, and representatives of the families of
soldiers killed in action. They are demanding the immediate resignation of
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz.
demonstration is 200 meters away, at the
entrance to the Supreme Court. The protesters have chosen to
camp out in a little
square called Agranat Square. It is named after the supreme court
justice who headed the investigation after the Yom Kippur War in
1973 that brought about the resignation of Prime Minister
Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar. The second demonstration, made up of
reservists from the IDF paratroop unit, is demanding the
establishment of a committee of inquiry into the events of the
Second Lebanese War, as this latest battle is being called.
Both demonstrations are
growing. More and more Israelis are coming by, joining in,
bringing supplies, and adding their names to the petitions.
Many of the visitors sign both petitions.
From his office,
Olmert can see both demonstrations. Each day that passes, they get
stronger and more visible. Media coverage is growing and the
public's attention is beginning to focus on them. Every day that
passes, as more and more information about what happened in the
war is being exposed, the anger in Israel increases. Olmert's options
seem to be
narrowing down to selecting the path proposed by one of the two demonstrations. He could have fired Peretz and Halutz right after the war, but now this would be a
futile endeavor. His best option today is to appoint a committee of
inquiry. The public will demand that the committee be headed by
retiring Chief Justice Aharon Barak. Barak, who will want
to leave a lasting legacy for his term in office, will probably
give the government no slack, and the committee will probably
have dire recommendations regarding Olmert, Peretz and
Halutz. Agranat was Barak's mentor.
As Friday turned into
Shabbat, and the two demonstration encampments sat down for the
Shabbat meal, the slim figure of Moti Ashkenazi, accompanied by
his two sons, made his way between the camps. Let's get
one million signatures on the petitions, he explained at the two
encampments. "Petition-signing tents are springing up all over
the country," Ashkenazi explained. "The time has come to set a
goal." One million Israelis is a number that cannot be ignored.
Ashkenazi knows the
power of public demonstration. After the Yom Kippur War, after
he was released from reserve duty, he camped out, alone,
opposite the Knesset, demanding the creation of a committee of
inquiry. For days he stood there on his own. And then, more and
more Israelis joined him - until the demonstration was so big that Meir was forced to create the Agranat Committee that
brought about her resignation.
"Deja vu?" I asked
Ashkenazi. "No,"he answered. "From time to time the stables
have to be cleaned and cleared out - so that new forces, new hope,
and new vision can set in." Thirty-three years have passed since the Yom
Kippur War - the time has come again to set things right.