Thousands of social protesters march in cities across Israel
Demonstrators block major road in central Tel Aviv; protesters prevent light rail from operating in Jerusalem.
A week after the social protest in Tel Aviv turned violent, some 10,000 social protesters marched relatively peacefully in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Afula on Saturday night.
In Tel Aviv, activists marched from Habima Square to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. At one point, over 1,000 demonstrators marched toward the government compound on Kaplan Street in central Tel Aviv. At around 9 P.M., the police estimated the size of the crowd at some 5,000, while demonstrators said there were about 8,000 present.
Firefighters were called in to douse a fire after protesters had set light to a large garbage bin.
Among the speakers at the Tel Aviv rally were Maj. Gen. (res.) Ze’ev Even-Hen, whose daughter Topaz was killed in the 2010 Carmel fire disaster, and Prof. Yossi Yonah, who was part of the alternative team of experts who advised the protesters last summer. A resident of south Tel Aviv, Itzik Amsalem, spoke about the situation in the poor neighborhoods in that part of the city.
“We were silent for a year and seven months,” Even-Hen told the crowd. “There is a parallel between the way they are treating you and us. No official representative of the government took part in the funerals of the victims of the Carmel fire. They don’t take us into consideration,” he said.
At around 10 P.M., demonstrators sat down and blocked the busy intersection of Kaplan and Menachem Begin streets and marched toward Shaul Hamelech Street, causing major traffic jams. Some protesters held a giant sign proclaiming, “We’re giving back the country to its citizens.”
Protesters shouted slogans, beat drums and pots, and blew whistles. The
organizers, who said the protest has been approved by and coordinated with
security forces, said citizens must call on the Israeli government to “open its eyes,” and called on the government to realize that “The money you will dole out in the upcoming budget is not yours, it’s the citizens.”
Meanwhile in Jerusalem, some 500 activists marched from Paris Square to Zion Square, at one point blocking the light rail track and shouting a slogan against the company that runs it. Police quickly moved the protesters off the track and the train continued on its way.
Protesters in Afula held a vigil with participants from all over the north. An activist, Loni Natanson, said he feared that the protests would not reach the magnitude they had last year, “because the government has managed to frighten people.”
In Haifa, where protesters marched from the Cinematheque to Gan Haem, a mock trial was held on the question of who was to blame for social gaps. The “prosecution” tried to prove that the government said one thing and did another, and the “defense” said that the number of unemployed was declining.
On Friday night, meanwhile, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai rejected claims by social protest activists that he was responsible for last week’s violence against protesters.
Speaking on Channel 2, Huldai said he supported the protest and was against violence, whether by city inspectors, police or demonstrators. “I am a Labor Party man, I am not a capitalist pig, and the protest is justified. But not if there’s violence,” he said.
Huldai invited any person who had caught city inspectors acting violently on film to send the clip to him and he said he would deal with it.
Huldai also said he opposed putting up tents on Rothschild Boulevard because the residents on that street had objected to the tents that were put up last year, but said he would allow tents to go up elsewhere.
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