20,000 Attend Tel Aviv Protest; Be'er Sheva Rally Cancelled

The organizers pleased with the outcome, claiming that it was further proof that despite the tension in the south of Israel, the protest isn't over.

More than 20,000 people gathered Saturday night for a demonstration in Tel Aviv, almost two months after the largest protest in Israel's history took place. The demonstrators marched from Rothschild Boulevard, home of this summer's original tent city, to Rabin Square.

The organizers were pleased with the outcome, claiming that it was further proof that despite the tension in the south of Israel, the protest isn't over.

Tel Aviv Demonstration - Ofer Vaknin - 30102011
Ofer Vaknin

A large placard in Rabin Square read: "The people demand a larger budget". Most of the speakers began with words of solidarity for the citizens in the south of Israel.

Vicky Vanunu, a single mother from the Katamon neighborhood in Jerusalem said to the demonstrators: "We understood that we have to take charge of our fate because no one else will do it for us. When we invade empty buildings they say we break the law, but tell me who is breaking the law if the state of Israel allows buildings to remain vacant when there are homeless people?"

Yael Barda, a leader of the parents' protest group said, "The government encourages us to have children, but then abandons them - and us - to the mercy of market forces. We can't allow this economic system to continue to steamroll us." When Barda mentioned the Trajtenberg Report, the demonstrators booed loudly.

Raviv Fahum, an Arab Sociology student from Tel Aviv University said, "For me the summer isn't over. We students can't return to school as if the summer never happened. We won't return to normal until we see change. This is everyone's protest - Jews and Arabs, men and women, religious and secular."

Shalom Hanoch, ended the evening with his mega-hit "Waiting for Mashiach" and said, "I can see the light at the end of the protest."

One of the highlights of the evening was the reunion of the Cameri Five, for the first time in more than a decade. The well-known comic act performed a sketch written by Etgar Keret.

In Jerusalem, about 5,000 people gathered in protest at Wohl Rose Park opposite the Knesset, and 200 gathered in Rishon Letzion.

The planned demonstration in Be'er Sheva was canceled after the Home Front Command forbade public gatherings of more than 500 people. The order came as a barrage of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel.

Organizers in Be'er Sheva declared they would cancel last night's protest but vowed to continue demonstrating as soon as possible.

500 people demonstrated in Ziv Square in Haifa. The demonstrators chanted, "Together we're a force no one can ignore." No stage was erected and there were no formal speakers due to the organizers' decision to hold a small event that would allow a public forum for dialogue.

Forum participants called on the public to be conscious consumers. Yossi Baruch, one of the organizers in Haifa said, "It doesn't matter what party we vote for - the important thing is that all parties should have a social agenda."

In Kiryat Shmona, hundreds of demonstrators joined social activists from the city's tent encampment, which is still active. Roni Skliar, one of the leaders among Kiryat Shmona's demonstrators, said that last night's protest was "in support of the upcoming Knesset session; to show our gratitude for what they're about to do for the pheriphery."

It has been almost two months since 450,000 people across Israel gathered, calling for social justice.