Some 450,000 Israelis March at Massive 'March of the Million' Rallies Across Country

Protests held in major cities across Israel represent biggest rallies in country's history; protest leader says 'we have chosen to see instead of walking blindly toward the abyss.'

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Over 450,000 protesters attended rallies across the country last night calling for social justice in what was the largest demonstration in Israeli history.

The main protest took place in Tel Aviv's Kikar Hamedina, where some 300,000 people gathered after marching from Habima Square about two kilometers away. Protest leader Yonatan Levy said the atmosphere was like "a second Independence Day."

'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.Credit: Moti Milrod

Protest leaders Daphni Leef and National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli both addressed the Tel Aviv crowd. "Mr. Prime Minister, the new Israelis have a dream and it is simple: to weave the story of our lives into Israel. We expect you to let us live in this country. The new Israelis will not give up. They demand change and will not stop until real solutions come," Shmuli said.

"My generation always felt as though we were alone in this world, but now we feel the solidarity," said Leef. "They tried to dismiss us as stupid children, and as extreme leftists," but last night's countrywide protest proved otherwise, she said.

Dr. Shiri Tannenbaum, a medical resident leading the young doctors' protest against the recent collective wage agreement signed between the government and the Israel Medical Association, also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally.

'March of the Million' rally in Haifai, Sept. 3, 2011.
'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.
'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.
11 of 11 |
'March of the Million' rally in Haifai, Sept. 3, 2011.Credit: Haggai Frid
1 of 11 |
'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.Credit: Nir Kafri
2 of 11 |
'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.Credit: Reuters
March of the Million

In Jerusalem, an unprecedented 50,000 people filled Paris Square and the surrounding streets, almost twice the number that attended previous protests this summer.

Actress and comedienne Orna Banai told the crowd in the capital: "I am not amused that there are hungry children here; that we have a soldier rotting in captivity for five years; that Israel is one of the poorest examples there are of human rights."

The chairman of the Hebrew University Student Union, Itai Gotler, said: "We changed this summer. The voice of the mother, the teacher, the student, have been heard...The fire of protest was lit in Tel Aviv, but the tent city in Jerusalem shows that the protest belongs to all of us."

Protesters at the 'March of the Million' rally in Tel Aviv, Sept. 3, 2011.Credit: Moti Milrod

Gotler said the Jerusalem tent city was closing down, but pledged to continue the struggle.

Yehuda Alush, 52, from Be'er Sheva, among a group of protesters from the Negev who marched to the capital, said: "This protest must not stop or we'll lose." In Haifa, the protest drew 40,000 people, many of whom waved red flags.

The Haifa protest focused on the issue of discrimination against Arabs. Shahin Nasser, representative of the Wadi Nisnas protest tent in Haifa said: "Today we are changing the rules of the game. No more coexistence based on hummus and fava beans. What is happening here is true coexistence, when Arabs and Jews march together shoulder to shoulder calling for social justice and peace. We've had it. Bibi, go home. Steinitz, go and don't come back, Atias, good-bye and good riddance," he said, referring to the prime minister, the finance minister and the housing minister, respectively.

The chairman of the University of Haifa's student union, Yossi Shalom, told the crowd, gathered at the foot of the Bahai Gardens in the city's German Colony, "There is no more beautiful sight than social solidarity. As a student, this is the most important lesson I have learned in recent months." At the protest in Afula the numbers reached 12,000; in Rosh Pina, 7,000 and in Kiryat Shemona, 7,000.

Meanwhile, in the south, a total of more than 1,000 people took part in rallies in Mitzpe Ramon and Arad. Ya'akov Laksi, an organizer of the protest in Arad, told the crowd: "Social justice means Arad will no longer be called an outlying town. We need to bring people work."

Laksi said organizers had expected only 100 protesters.

"We want the government to increase funding, not take from someone else," Eyal Adler, an organizer of the protest in Mitzpe Ramon said.

A protester who gave her name as Ruthie, said: "We are far from the eye of the media, but we deserve no less funding and a change in the funding map of Israel."

Concerns over possible rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip led the Home Front Command to issue a directive prohibiting demonstrations in Be'er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Eli Ashkenazi and Yanir Yagna contributed to this report.

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage