Tel Aviv protest Jan. 15, 2011 (Tal Cohen)
Demonstration in Tel Aviv, Saturday, January 15, 2011. Photo by Tal Cohen
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Almost two months after staging a huge end-of-summer demonstration in Tel Aviv, the social protesters will be returning to the streets Saturday night.

Protest leaders are hoping they can once again draw tens of thousands of people to the main demonstration, in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. Smaller events will take place simultaneously in Kiryat Shmona, Haifa, Hod Hasharon, Rishon Letzion, Modi'in, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva and Eilat.

The Tel Aviv demonstration will begin at 8 P.M. with a march starting from Habima Theater. The main rally has been called for 9 P.M.

In an interview appearing in Friday's Week's End section, one of the protest leaders, Stav Shaffir, voiced confidence that the demonstration would be a success. "More than ever before, we need to hit the streets to prove we won't be stopped if change doesn't happen. Such a large protest movement is a one-time occurrence. I don't know when an opportunity like this will come again, so we cannot afford to miss it."

She also lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Bibi proved that he is not brave enough to look the people straight in the eye. From the very beginning of the protests, he never looked us in the eye ... He had plenty of opportunities, but nothing happened.

"He needs to understand that it's either do something or get out of the way," she said.

The main speaker at the Tel Aviv rally will once again be Daphni Leef, the woman who launched the protest. Other speakers will include a teacher employed via a manpower agency, a doctor and someone from the ultra-Orthodox community.

The comedy team The Cameri Quintet, reuniting for the first time in 14 years, will perform a skit at the rally that was written specially for the event by author Etgar Keret. Singer Rami Fortis will also perform.

But the event could be undermined by a growing rift between the protest leaders and the National Student Union. This will be the first rally the student union did not help organize, and union chairman Itzik Shmuli said he considers it superfluous and thinks the protesters' energies should now be funneled into other channels.

Nevertheless, he urged the public to attend the demonstration and said he plans to be there himself.

On Thursday, Shmuli asked the organizers to let him speak at the rally, but they refused, saying it wasn't reasonable to give a platform to someone who opposed the event and didn't help organize it. But he said he still plans to attend, adding that the media focus on the rift between him and the other protest leaders was excessive and harmful to the movement.

Protest leaders have been making intensive efforts in recent days to get the crowds to turn out, from hanging posters and working the social media to sending activists to cafes and restaurants in Tel Aviv to urge people personally to go out and demonstrate.

On Thursday, the Tel Aviv municipality rejected the protesters' request that it waive the fee it charges for using Rabin Square. Based on the organizers' permit application, which asked police to prepare for a crowd of 100,000, the city is asking for NIS 35,000, plus a NIS 10,000 deposit to cover any potential damage. But the protest leaders said they have no intention of paying the fee.

Starting from 10 A.M. on Saturday, parking will be forbidden on the streets leading to Rabin Square. In the evening, police will close off several main roads in the area, including parts of Arlosoroff, Ben-Gurion, Gordon, Dizengoff, Hanevi'im, Ben Zion, Shaul Hamelech, Kaplan, Hahashmonaim and Ibn Gvirol streets. And shortly before the rally, depending on the volume of traffic, they may also close four exits from the Ayalon freeway - Hashalom, Arlosoroff, Hahalacha and Rokach - as well as Rothschild Boulevard and Carlebach Street.

The Haifa demonstration will take place at the Sieff Center in Neveh Sha'anan. However, no streets will be closed in that city.

Revital Hovel contributed to this report.