Discharged Israeli soldiers, on spiritual sojourns in the Far East after they leave the service, usually carry backpacks.
Last week some Israelis carried political posters, in Tel Aviv, on behalf of Tibet.
In separate rallies outside the Chinese embassy and the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Israelis joined young members of Tibetan families in protests against recent Chinese violence in Tibet.
According to news reports, scores of Tibetan citizens were injured and up to 100 killed in a crackdown by Chinese soldiers against protestors in Lhasa, the capital of the mountainous country that has been under Chinese sovereignty for more than a half century. The protests, the worst in Tibet since 1989, have thrust China’s harsh treatment of Tibet and China’s role as the host of this summer’s Olympic Games into the international spotlight.
“The Israeli government must at least express its condemnation of what is happening,” said Ron Natanzon, spokesman for the 1,000-member Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People, a 14-year-old organization formed by Israelis who had visited Tibet.
“As Jews, we feel a need and a duty to help oppressed peoples in other places,” said Meira Abulafia, a leader of the organization.
The Tel Aviv protests included Tibetan students enrolled in agricultural training programs in the Negev. They said silent prayers and chanted and carried Buddhist prayer books. Most, who had never set foot in Tibet, were born in refugee camps in India.
“We wander from country to country, but we don’t forget our culture,” said Sunam Yangchen, one of the students. “Everything I know about Tibet I learned from my parents. I’d like to go back there.”
“Tibetan exiles dream of returning to their homeland,” said Lubsan Dundup, another child of an exiled Tibetan family, “just as the Jews did when they were in exile.”