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What My Flag Has Seen: A Year in the Life of Israel

Raoul Wootliff is a strategic communications specialist and political analyst living in Modi'in with his wife Sarah and three children - Yael, Noam and Alon. A former journalist and political correspondent, Raoul grew up in London before making Aliyah to Israel in 2005. He is a regular contributor to local and international broadcast networks, providing commentary and analysis on Israeli politics and current affairs.



The Israeli flag, a symbol of hope, resilience, and unity, usually rests in my storeroom, emerging once a year for Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. This past year, however, my flag has seen more than I ever imagined. It has borne witness to moments of intense pride and deep sorrow, flying high in both celebration and defiance. Its fabric has felt the weight of history and the breath of change, much like my own Zionism—tested, frayed, but unyielding.


In January 2023, I retrieved my flag from its usual place. It was not for a holiday, but for a small protest in Modiin. The government's proposed judicial reforms threatened to limit the power of the Supreme Court, a cornerstone of our democracy. The very fabric of our legal system, the guardian of our rights and freedoms, was under threat. As I held my flag high outside Justice Minister Yariv Levin's house, voices around me rose in the solemn strains of "Hatikva," reaffirming our shared hope and commitment to the democratic values on which Israel was founded.


Each Saturday night thereafter, my flag and I joined ever-growing crowds, the protests swelling into a powerful movement. From Modiin to Tel Aviv, we stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands, our flags all fluttering in unison, a sea of blue and white against the darkening sky. The air was thick with chants, songs, and the determined spirit of a nation refusing to surrender its democratic identity. We demanded that our lawmakers abandon their perilous path and preserve our democracy. The streets of Tel Aviv became rivers of humanity, united by the conviction that Israel's future must be one of justice and equality.


The journey didn't stop there. My flag accompanied me on a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem where strangers, carrying their oen flags, became comrades in the mission to save Israel. Step by step, kilometer by kilometer, our feet pounded the pavement on the way the the Knesset as we raised our collective voices for Israeli democracy.


It was with me when the defense minister was fired for opposing the reforms and I joined countless others in blocking traffic. As we blocked major highways across the country, our empassioned cry filled the streets with a clear message; enough is enough.


Then came October 7. The tragedy of that day changed everything. On October 8, I took my flag out for a different reason: not as a symbol of protest but one of solidarity. The events of that fateful day left an indelible mark on our nation and as I hung the flag outside my front door, I felt a profound sense of unity with my fellow Israelis. It was a quiet tribute to the lives lost and a signal of unity in our collective grief. The flag, now a silent sentinel, bore witness to our shared sorrow and unwavering resolve.




Since the war's outbreak, my flag has accompanied me as I stood on the side of the road, paying last respects to fallen soldiers as their bodies were driven through Modiin on the way to the local cemetery. Neighbours and strangers stood together, flag in hand, mourning yet unbroken.

My flag was there when we marched, again and again, to demand the release of Israeli hostages. It waved alongside those of other families, united in our plea for their safe return. We walked through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Modiin, past the house of Noa Marciano, a soldier who had been taken hostage and subsequently killed. Each step a march of remembrance and a call for justice. As we marched, we carried not just our flags but the hopes and prayers of an entire nation.


Then, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, once more, we marched with the families of hostages, my flag leading the way. Our demands were clear: freedom for the captives and accountability for those who had led us into such darkness. Every step taken, every chant raised, was a plea for justice, a demand for the safe return of our loved ones.


Now, my flag is back at the protests, this time demanding new elections in the aftermath of October 7. We protest the continued mismanagement of the war and the urgent need for new leadership. We call for the release of hostages, the end of political turmoil, and the restoration of our democratic principles. And we call to end this terrible war.


This past year has transformed my flag from a symbol of annual celebration to a constant companion in the fight for justice, democracy, and peace. It has been a witness to history. Tested, it may be, but it remains steadfast. My flag, like my belief in Israel, continues to fly—battered yet proud, frayed but unbroken.


Yet, as I look at my flag now, I see more than a symbol. I see the faces of those who have marched beside me, the voices that have joined in song and protest. I see the hope that has carried us through the darkest of times and the determination that will guide us forward. For the flag of Israel is not just a piece of cloth but a living, breathing embodiment of our collective spirit. And I will continue to wave it high.

 

By Raoul Wootliff

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