Israeli Demonstrators to Mark First Anniversary of Social Protest

Thousands expected to attend nationwide events marking the first anniversary of last summer's social justice protest movement; despite efforts to unify them, two separate marches expected in Tel Aviv.

Organizers expect tens of thousands to take part in nationwide demonstrations on Saturday night to mark the first anniversary of last summer's social justice protests. But despite efforts to project a unified front, organizers have failed to find a way to prevent two protest marches from taking place simultaneously in Tel Aviv.

One, organized by several leading activists in last summer's protest, will begin at 8 P.M. at Gordon Beach and culminate an hour later in a rally in Charles Clore Park. The other, organized by Daphni Leef, the woman who launched the social protest, will also begin at 8 P.M. at Habima Square and culminate an hour later in a rally at the government complex on Kaplan Street.

Marches will also take place in Jerusalem (9 P.M. at Gan Hasus, ending up at the Knesset), Haifa (7:30 P.M. near the Bahai Gardens on Ben-Gurion Boulevard, ending at Meyerhoff Square) and Be'er Sheva (9 P.M. at the teacher's center on Rager Street, ending at the Victory Garden). Thousands of people have confirmed plans to attend the various events via Facebook.

"The country has been burning for a year, but the government is ignoring us and sneering at us," organizers of the Gordon Beach march wrote on the event's Facebook page. "The people are angry and collapsing under the burden, but the government and the tycoons are doing business as usual. We, the people of Israel, will not wait much longer."

But some leading activists acknowledged disappointment at their inability to unite. One, who is not involved in organizing either Tel Aviv march, said it showed that the protest movement was taking a wrong turn.

Amnon Dafni, one of the organizers of the Gordon Beach march, said his group has been working on it for three months. "Then, just a few days ago, Daphni Leef began with her event on Kaplan Street. We tried to get her to come be part of us, but we didn't succeed."

Nevertheless, he insisted, "We have nothing against the second event. It's okay for there to be two events; what's important is that people get out into the streets."

Leef, in a press statement issued Thursday, said that "The media talk a lot about egos and clashing interests, and the discussion has been diverted from the distress of Israeli society. At rallies, the stage has turned into a source of friction, because everyone needs to make his voice heard. Therefore, this Saturday night, there will be no central stage, but five small stages along Kaplan Street, which will provide an equal platform to all the struggles and all the various organizations, in an effort to raise the discourse again."

The statement also included a long list of social organizations that have pledged to send representatives to the event she has organized.

A march for social justice in Tel Aviv in June 2012.
Hadar Cohen