Tel Aviv - Since the jets went streaking northwards to rain death over Beirut and the missiles came shrieking back southwards to an ever-widening number of Israeli communities, Israeli peace activists have been gathering every Saturday evening and marching through the streets.
According to the confident predictions emanating from Condoleezza Rice's entourage at the beginning of the week, a ceasefire should have already been in place.
But today, Saturday [August 5] was at least as bloody as the preceding days. As thousands streamed to the demonstration rendezvous at the end of Ben Tzion Boulevard, the prospects of a ceasefire were a major subject of conversation.
To the mother and her two daughters killed this morning at Arab el Aramsheh from the direct hit of a Katyusha missile, such discussion will no longer make any difference. (Like nearly half of Israeli civilian casualties, they were Arabs.)
Here in the heart of Tel Aviv we had to contend with a non-lethal kind of missile: a salvo of eggs suddenly plastered the gathering activists. The police somehow failed to notice the perpetrators, despite being present on the scene in great numbers.
"Damn, I worked on this placard for nearly three hours," cried a young man from Jaffa holding the caption "Stop the carnage - start negotiating peace!" Three young women rushed to help, scraping the poster with their tissues until all signs of the dripping yolk were removed.
Our malevolent "friends" were far from through. The activist who brought a bundle of 300 black flags, made the mistake of leaving them for a minute on the pavement. Suddenly a car stopped and three youngsters got out, seized the flags by force and disappeared.
The flags were intended to convey mourning for all the victims, on whatever side of the physical border and ethnic and religious divide, and also to recall the Supreme Court ruling half a century ago that "it is not only the right but the duty of a soldier to disobey a manifestly illegal order, on which the Black Flag of Illegality flies."
The thieves had robbed us of having the mass of black at the head of the march. Still, a group of traditionally dressed Arab women from the north got off their bus with black flags they had prepared in their village, and the anarchists naturally also had quite a few of them.
The narrow King George Street through which we passed is in downtown Tel Aviv. Demonstrators chanted "We shall neither die nor kill in the service of the USA," "Children want to live in Beirut and Haifa," "A million refugees, that's a war crime." But the slogan repeated again and again, in alternating Hebrew and Arabic, was "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!"
Crossing busy Allenby Street, we got to the site of the rally, Magen David Square. Besides Gush Shalom, participants included the Women's Coalition for Peace, Ta'ayush [a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews], Anarchists Against Walls, Yesh Gvul [a soldier refusenik group] and the Israeli-Palestinian Forum of Bereaved Families, as well the political parties Hadash, Balad and the United Arab List.
The keynote speech was delivered by Saul Feldman, a person hitherto unknown to most of his listeners. "I live in Nesher, which as you know is a suburb of Haifa. Until three weeks ago, this was just a geographical detail. On the day this war broke out, I and my wife went to the peace demonstration in Tel Aviv. On the following day we were sitting in a back room when there was an explosion. Our front room was in shambles. I tried the piano to see if it was working. That was when the press photographers arrived.
"I should have thought that the photo of a man playing the piano in a ruined house would have sent a message of peace. But I saw the photo with very warlike captions, which implied I want revenge from the inhabitants of Lebanon.
"I called the press and protested and told them I had participated in the anti-war demonstration. They said, 'Oh, but did you not change your mind when your house was bombed?' Change my mind? I have protested against the stupid, wanton destruction of war, and then the war and destruction came to my own home. Should that make me change my mind?"
Later, a young man mounted the podium. "My name is Zohar Milgrom. I am an activist in Yesh Gvul. I have received an emergency call-up order. Tomorrow I have to show up at the army to be sent to Lebanon. I will go there to declare that I am refusing. I will dedicate my time of imprisonment to all people who suffer in this war, the Jews and the Arabs, the Israelis and Lebanese and Palestinians."
After he stepped down, a Yesh Gvul speaker announced a solidarity demonstration for next Saturday outside Military Prison 6 at Atlit - where refusing Captain Amir Pester has been for more than week -- and where Milgrom will probably soon join him.