This Friday, we march for the right ‘to be human’

By Hagai El-Ad

One year ago, the words of Avihu Medina echoed from the stage of the Human Rights March in Rabin Square:

Lo were I fortunate / to ask for a fate / then I would ask / to be human.

We are fortunate indeed, enough to have adopted this very song – “To Be Human” – as the anthem of this year’s Human Rights March. The fourth annual March will take place in just a couple of days – this Friday, December 7, in Tel Aviv (for more details in English, please click here). Neta Alkayim will open this year’s rally, singing before a crowd of thousands a special version of the song, called “To Be a Woman, To Be Human.” The moving video of Alkayim’s rendition of “To Be Human” has already been viewed thousands of times on YouTube.

I came to this world / they did not ask me /
What I may want / or what my heart desires
I came to this world / and everything already existed

None of us was asked before being brought into this world – a world in which “everything already existed.” A world in which so many barriers stand in the way of what it means to be fully human: racism and inequality, social and economic injustice, education gaps and glass ceilings. Were we born into a family of refugees? In a village without a kindergarten, a water main or a paved road? Did we grow up in a society that allowed us to play an equal role in political decisions about our future? If we decided to start a family, were quality health services made available to us? Did we suffer from discrimination and inequality, or did we benefit from privileges denied to so many others? When we stood on our principles and sought to express ourselves, could we do so without fear? Were laws imposed upon us with cynical arbitrariness or did they deliver true justice?

There is so much injustice, and it too already existed when we were born. But so did the dream of being human. To realize our potential as equal humans, we believe in human rights – not as an abstract concept, not as a subject reserved for experts, and not as a distant vision. Rather, as an inherent truth, a human-scale promise within our reach.  We strive to be humans who not only breathe the same air, walk the same earth and share the same homeland, but first and foremost we strive to be humans who respect the rights of the people and communities around us, and who demand a dignified existence based on the recognition of human rights, equality and democracy.

No one among us can truly be human while others are prevented from being so. When some people go without medicine or a roof over their heads, the burden of their suffering may not be shared by those who are fortunate enough to take such things for granted. But injustice affects us all. So too, when millions of people live under military rule without political rights; when entire populations suffer from policies of systematic discrimination; and when the state mistreats asylum seekers, turns a blind eye to overt racism, legislates discriminatory laws, or incites the public, fanning the flames of alienation, separation, and injustice rather than protecting human rights and celebrating what human beings have in common.

Every year, throughout the year, we fight so that we can all be human. One day a year, on the day of the Human Rights March, we stand together: different people from different communities, who entered the world with a myriad of differences, but who find a shared path. We don’t necessarily agree on every detail, but together we believe that human rights are part of a shared vision, a grand vision that we all have the responsibility to fulfill. And to fulfill this vision, to ground it both practically and locally, we will return and march together again this year.

Like everyone I am only human / Tired and disappointed
And only dreaming / Of being Human

We are not tired and not disappointed, and we insist that dreaming of being human is not enough. We must take real steps to realize our dream – we take those steps together at the March.

To be many thousands of people who fight together for the values of the society we are part of is to be fortunate, to be human, to be the Human Rights March.

See you on December 7!

Hagai El-Ad is the Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). This post first appeared in Hebrew on Cafe Gibraltar. You can follow the March on ACRI’s Facebook page and on Twitter using the Hashtag #HRMarchIL