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In Israel, TV’s dystopian ‘Handmaids’ is protest fixture

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TEL AVIV, Israel — It is turn into an ominous fixture of the mass anti-government protests roiling Israel: a coil of girls in crimson robes and white caps, strolling heads bowed and arms clasped. They’re dressed as characters from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Story,” and the eponymous TV sequence.

The ladies, rising in numbers because the demonstrations in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insurance policies intensify, say they’re protesting to beat back what they consider might be a darkish future if the federal government follows by way of on its plan to overtake the judiciary.

“This show is a illustration of the issues that we concern,” stated Moran Zer Katzenstein, founding father of the ladies’s rights advocacy group Bonot Alternativa, or “constructing another,” which is behind the Handmaid’s protest.

“Girls are going to be the primary to be harmed” underneath the overhaul, she added.

In a transfer that has sparked widespread opposition, Netanyahu’s authorities is pushing to weaken the Supreme Courtroom and restrict the independence of the judiciary, steps they are saying will restore energy to elected legislators and make the courts much less interventionist. Critics say the transfer upends Israel’s system of checks and balances and pushes it towards autocracy.

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The overhaul has despatched tens of hundreds of individuals into the streets in protest every week.

Unmissable within the crowd are the ladies in crimson robes, turning in any other case common protest scenes into an otherworldly sight.

Forward of 1 demonstration, a gaggle of girls rode the prepare from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in costume, reworking the vehicles and the platform into what might have been a scene from the Hulu sequence. One other time, they encircled a central fountain within the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, a web site that is usually dwelling to children in strollers and canines on leashes. They’ve additionally blocked intersections, staying in character throughout the protests, retaining quiet as they stroll in formation.

Their jarring look is supposed to drive dwelling the notion that Israel, which portrays itself because the Center East’s lone democracy, might morph right into a chilling dystopia the place girls are stripped of their rights.

Atwood’s 1985 novel a few futuristic patriarchal society the place the robed handmaids are pressured to bear youngsters for leaders, has reemerged lately as a cultural touchstone due to the favored TV sequence. Its themes of feminine subjugation and male domination have resonated with girls in the present day who see threats in limits on abortion rights, or in Israel’s case, within the rise of its conservative, spiritual authorities.

The federal government, Israel’s most right-wing ever, is overwhelmingly male. Solely 9 out of 64 members of Netanyahu’s coalition are girls. Extremely-Orthodox events, that are key parts of the coalition, deny inclusion to girls members completely.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has stated women and men shouldn’t be permitted to serve collectively in navy fight items, whereas his governing companions have voiced help for discrimination in opposition to LGBTQ individuals and Palestinian residents of Israel.

The costume, which has come to embody globally the menace to girls underneath the patriarchy, has been utilized in protests elsewhere. American girls opposing former President Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Courtroom nominees have donned the garb, as have Iranian girls demonstrating in Britain in help of the protests in Iran, and Polish girls calling to protect abortion rights.

However with the disaster in Israel exhibiting no signal of abating, the ladies in crimson have turn into a mainstay at protests across the nation and their numbers are rising. About 1,000 girls wore the robes at a latest Tel Aviv rally.

They’re additionally getting seen. Atwood herself has retweeted a number of posts in regards to the girls. And Simcha Rothman, the lawmaker and parliamentary committee head spearheading the overhaul, has criticized them, whereas claiming the authorized modifications will solely strengthen girls’s rights in Israel.

“I’m attentive to the protests and demonstrations and completely satisfied to provide a response to any concern concerning the authorized plan. What do I not settle for? A scare marketing campaign that incites falsely that Israel will turn into ‘The Handmaid’s Story,’” he tweeted earlier this month. “The reform is not going to hurt the safety of girls.”

Zer Katzenstein, who left a profession in advertising and marketing for worldwide manufacturers to steer the protest, stated that she would not rely on Rothman, a spiritual Jew and conservative ideologue, to guard her rights.

The protest will not be an exaggeration of the place Israel could be headed as some have charged, however somewhat a warning mild, she stated.

“We don’t suppose that we (will) get up and understand that we dwell in Gilead,” she stated, referring to the identify of the fictional republic in Atwood’s guide.

“However we concern that it’s going to be one thing evolving. First right here after which there and one other one and one other one,” she added. “Our message is that we’re drawing a crimson line and we is not going to let this occur, not even a bit.”

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