By Rachel Druck.
For those of us living abroad, the feelings of shock, sadness, and outrage that have become such a regular part of post-election life are often compounded by feelings of isolation. While Americans living in the United States were shaken by the results of the election and could turn to each other for support, those of us abroad went to work the next day in shock, while life went on as usual around us. Alone with our feelings, we could only watch as in the US Americans took to the streets, and feel further away from home than ever.
Pantsuit Nation Israel was created the day after the election by Mindy Goldberg, who refused to let her post-election feelings paralyze her. Modeled after the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, Pantsuit Nation Israel quickly became a virtual meeting spot for American-Israelis, Americans, and Israelis to gather. During a time of division, the group became a place of connection, where members could come together, whether in anger, sadness, worry, or fear, and feel understood and supported.
“I asked the police officer what would happen if 100 people came. His response was quick and assured: “You’re not going to get 100 people.”
But Pantsuit Nation Israel was never intended to be just a Facebook group, and after the initial shock, the group’s first mission was clear. We wanted Israel to be part of the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration, and to rally together with our sisters and brothers on the other side of the ocean. None of us had ever planned a rally before, and we would have to navigate rules and bureaucracy in Hebrew in order to plan this one, but we were undeterred. We also had no idea what to expect. In Israel a rally needs a permit if at least 50 people will attend, and for all we knew 5 people would show up. But, feeling wildly optimistic, we decided to apply for a one. At the police station, in a moment of confidence, I asked the police officer what would happen if 100 people came. His response was quick and assured: “You’re not going to get 100 people.”
Nearly 500 people came to the Tel Aviv Sister Rally on January 21st. The rally brought together a diverse group of participants of all ages and political backgrounds, seasoned activists and novices, Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, tourists, and more. In spite of our differences, we came together to be present and show our commitment to fighting for our values, including love, tolerance, and acceptance. Far from being alone, we realized that day that we stood together with hundreds of allies, and that together we stood strong.
The major success of the Tel Aviv Sister Rally did not mean that things were smooth sailing afterwards. There are unique challenges to resisting in Israel; the left is weak and ineffective, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The Israeli public can be indifferent at best, and at worst supportive of Trump; Obama was deeply unpopular in Israel, and however Israelis might feel personally about the new president, many are happy to see someone else in office, regardless of who it is. Logistically, politically, and because of cultural differences not all of the recommended methods of resistance work for us; many times we have to forge our own path from scratch, or resign ourselves to sitting something out.
“Ultimately our work is about changing narratives: both our internal narratives that we are alone ideologically and politically, and a broader narrative that Trump is good for Israel, and that Israel loves Trump.”
Nevertheless, we persist. During Trump’s visit to Israel in May nearly 400 people, Americans, Israelis, Israeli-Americans, Palestinians, came out to protest in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. None of us realized how big of a deal this was until a number of Israelis, many of whom were experienced protesters, approached us at the end of the rally to tell us how amazed they were at the number of people who came out, and the level of energy that we were able to maintain throughout the rally. We are harnessing an energy and providing a platform for people to bring their best selves in expressing their resistance.
Ultimately our work is about changing narratives: both our internal narratives that we are alone ideologically and politically, and a broader narrative that Trump is good for Israel, and that Israel loves Trump. Pantsuit Nation Israel provides a platform for these alternative narratives to grow and flourish, and for those of us in Israel to come together to change the world.