Independence Day is traditionally a day for picnics in Israel, but picnickers who chose the Lavie Forest in northern Israel as their barbeque venue went not just for the view, but to make a statement, as well. Hundreds of Israeli Zionists converged on the forest to counterbalance a “Nakba” protest held by Arabs and leftist Israelis in the forest.
The pro-Israeli picnickers were invited to the site by an organization called Hashomer Hachadash (“the new guardians”), an organization established in 2007 to assist farmers, ranchers, and others in rural areas to guard and protect their land and property from thefts perpetrated by Arab and Bedouin gangs. The organization, leaders said, attempt to continue the tradition of the original Hashomer organization, which operated in the 1920s and 1930s, helping Jews protect their farms from Arab marauders and highwaymen.
Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters – far fewer than the 10,000 organizers hoped for – marched around picnic areas, shouting anti-Israel slogans and holding signs expressing their feelings. The anti-Israel groups were granted a police permit for the protest, despite the harsh objections by local officials, who feared that a confrontation would develop that would mar Independence Day festivities.
In the end, though, Independence Day went off without a hitch – thanks in large part to the thousands of Israelis who chose not to be intimidated by the anti-Israel marchers, said Einat Ben-Nun of the Hashomer Hachadash group. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, she said that the group “wants to restore the courage of Israelis. It is unthinkable that Israelis would be afraid to celebrate Independence Day in the heart of the country.”
Opposite the Palestinian flags that protesters flew, the group ensured that there were many Israeli flags, she said. “We did not challenge or taunt them, we stayed away from them, but as they flew their flag, we flew ours. We will not let them discourage us,” she added.