"March of the Dead" in Tel Aviv: Uniting Voices Ag...
"March of the Dead" in Tel Aviv: Uniting Voices Against Crime and Calling for Government Action
March of the Dead.
On Sunday, August 7th, 20,000 Arab and Jewish protesters from across the country gathered in Tel Aviv and together embarked on what became known by various names: the "March of the Dead," the "Silent March," or simply "We Want to Live." The motivation behind this demonstration was a staggering statistic: 146 Arab homicides had occurred since the beginning of the year. The protest drew attention to the grief of the community, inadequate security and law enforcement in Arab society, and the call for urgent collective action against violence. “Our children feel unprotected. Kids are being killed left and right, and there’s no law enforcement. We want to live in peace, we want security – for us and our children. We’re citizens of Israel, we shouldn’t be so afraid to go out,” says one demonstrator.”
Infographic with Statistic on Crime rates in Arab society. Courtesy of the Abraham Initiatives
Following the murders in Yafa al-Nasriye, different groups of activists organized a series of small-scale protests. Among them was Ghada Zoabi, CEO of Bokra Media Group, who invited nearly 270 people from the Negev to the north to a WhatsApp group, calling for action and promising support. This group is united now under the name "The National People's Forum.” Collaborating with other activists, Ghada helped organize a meeting at Ar’ara’s hi-tech hub. These convenings resulted in the decision to organize a “silent funeral procession” in Tel Aviv and engage the Arab youth and Israeli Jews.
High Schoolers Carrying Coffins
The community-led initiative gained traction: in response to the call, various civil society organizations joined the movement as co-hosts. These include Madad Foundation, the Arab Doctors' Forum, Musawa Center, AJEEC Center, Ajyal Movement, Hasoub, Abraham Initiatives, Masira Fund for Advancement for People with Disabilities, National Informal Learning centers, Aman Center, Masar Program, Alfanar Center, Givat Haviva, Rabbis for Human Rights, Shitufim - Strategies for Social Change, Yad BeYad Association, Averroes Society, and other associations operating in Arab society across the country. The grassroots movement thrived on volunteerism and donations, including buses, prompts and posters. The support from the Tel Aviv municipality further guaranteed the seamless progression of the march.
Poster: March of the Dead, August 6, 2023. Courtesy of Ghada Zoabi
The route of the march in Tel Aviv was not coincidental. Suleiman al-Amor, one of the protest organizers, said: "We wanted to bring the suffering of the Arab community to the people sitting in cafés in Tel Aviv, so they'll know how the government is abandoning us." The slogans of the movement encapsulated the urgent demands for change, the call for the government to acknowledge its responsibility in safeguarding its citizens, and the assertion of the Arab community's identity as peaceful, inclusive, and deserving of security.
March of the Dead. Slogans: We want to live; Shabtai: This is not my culture; How many more? We pay taxes, not protection money; Zero tolerance for crime. Take responsibility now; Don’t stand on the blood of your citizens; others
What made this protest also particularly powerful was strong presence of both Jewish and Arab demonstrators. The organizers collaborated with media channels and Jewish partners from shared society organizations, who in turn propagated the event's invitation in Hebrew across their networks. While crime in Arab society is often seen as an isolated issue, the solidarity displayed at this demonstration reinforced that it is a shared Israeli concern.
"I don't have any expectations from the current government. But I believe in the power of citizens' struggle; I want the Arab public to start believing in themselves that they too can bring about change. Solidarity between Arabs and Jews against crime - will change the narrative," shares Maisam Jaljuli, a social and political activist.
Future Steps: Empowerment through Grassroots Action
The March of the Dead marked the beginning of organizational efforts aimed at future initiatives. Emerging communities in over 60 Arab localities are reportedly evolving into proactive initiative groups through WhatsApp networks, uniting professionals, educators, and facilitators. These groups are focused on formulating preventive strategies against crime, instilling a sense of empowerment within the Arab community itself, with a special emphasis on the young generation.
Several activists of the movement emphasize the protest's significance as a tool for breaking the barrier of despair and rebuilding renewed confidence within the Arab community. They underscore the urgency and value of demonstrations, along with the movement's capacity to orchestrate and lead future campaigns and protests.
The organizers have already slated the next march in Haifa on August 31st, rallying under the slogan of "One society, one destiny, one cry." Additionally, plans are underway for another march to be held in Jerusalem.