From Comedy to Tragedy

Can’t remember who it was who once said that comedy is just tragedy speeded up.

Here’s an example. A true story that told quickly is really funny. Only on slower telling it’s tragic.

About 500 Israelis are demonstrating at HaBima Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. They are protesting the war in Gaza. They are against the bombing and killing of Gazan civilians. “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” they chant.

Some 50 Israelis gather around them. These Israelis don’t like the leftist sentiment of the demonstrators. They start shouting “Death to the Arabs,” and other such nice things. Accusing the leftists of being cappuccino-supping café-frequenting Arab-loving traitors, they begin to get heated. From aggressive language to violence, these folks start to attack the lefties.

Someone calls the police. The police separate the two groups, and stand between them.

Then. Of course. Comic timing. Hamas shoot a rocket at Tel Aviv. The siren goes off, as up in the skies above HaBima square the Iron Dome defender zooms around and takes out the Hamas rocket.

Who responds to the siren? Who runs for cover?

The police, of course.

Suddenly, now the fireworks are over, there is no one to separate between the leftist demonstrators and their violent opponents. The right-wingers attack, and the leftists run. They run and take cover.

Where?

In a coffee shop.

It’s hilarious. If you tell it quick enough.

But if you slow things down, and move your point of view from Gaza to Israel these past few weeks, there is something deeply disturbing going on. There is violence in the air and on the streets here. Why use capital letters and horrific curses in social media if you can do it physically instead?

Our democracy, that which we’re fighting for, is in danger from ourselves. The minority of thugs who shouted down Naftali Bennet during his speech at the Haaretz Peace Conference and pushed him around afterwards are no less worrying (though less populous) than the thugs who shout down and fight down anyone who doesn’t agree with the government’s choices.

I hope we don’t take our eye off the ball, so busy are we searching the skies for attack and defence. Shouting in Israel is only healthy if it stays as hot air, and does not turn into fists.

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