Marches Held Across Israel as Social Protests Enter Fourth Week

Homeless protesters in Holon burn tires and block roads after being ordered to dismantle tents; first Arab protest held in Haifa.

Protests against the rising costs of living marched on Wednesday in several cities across Israel. In Holon, protesters in the Jesse Cohen neighborhood burned tires and blocked roads after city inspectors ordered them to dismantle their tent compound within 24 hours. Most of the people occupying the tents are homeless.

The residents' representative, Nissan Zacharia, criticized the municipality's decision to clear the encampment. "A small match can ignite everything here," he said, adding that if the tents are dismantled "[Holon] will become like London, and it will be the mayor's responsibility."

Moti Milrod

In Be'er Sheva, protesters marched in swimsuits chanting "the protest is spreading" (also "undresses" in Hebrew). A mass rally is planned for Saturday, with organizers hoping for a turnout of 50,000 people. Uri Keiday, who heads the Ben Gurion University Student Association, said the event will be historic. "There has never before been a protest on this scale in the Negev," he said. "We are here to show those who want this protest to disappear that we are here to stay, and that this is everyone's struggle, from south to north."

In Wadi Nisnas in Haifa 200 protesters marched chanting the usual slogan – "the people want social justice" – but in Arabic. This was the first protests organized by Haifa's Arab community, which constitutes ten percent of the city's population.

Activists in other cities has been discussing whether the protest is political. Among these protesters in Haifa, the answer was clear, as they chanted, "The occupation is a disaster, it serves the tycoons," and "money should be given to neighborhoods, not settlements."

33-year-old Raja Za'atra, who organized Wadi Nisnas's tent city, said the protest is part of the nation-wide movement, but also seeks to highlight the specific problems facing the Arab sector. "The banks won't give mortgages to people who want to buy an apartment," he said. "In the case of the Arab population, the supply is limited and the prices keep rising." He added that there is also a shortage of kindergartens and schools for the Arab population.

In Jerusalem, approximately 250 people marched to protest against the state of public transportation in the city. The activist demanded clearer scheduling information at bus stops and more public involvement in decision making.

Additional protests took place on Wednesday in other parts of the country. Activists in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Kiryat Shmona held rallies against unfair employment conditions, wearing white masks as a symbol of the "invisible" sector in whose name they protested.

On Thursday, "stroller marches" are scheduled to take place across Israel for the third week straight.