20,000 Israelis Protest in Tel Aviv Over Nixing of Music Festivals Countrywide

Protesters are calling for the 'freedom to dance' in response to police restrictions on trance festivals in an attempt to limit drug use

Demonstrators demand 'freedom to dance' in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.
Moti Milrod

Some 20,000 Israelis took to the streets of central Tel Aviv Thursday night to protest the cancellation of several trance music festivals following restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities due to potential drug use. 

The demonstration was held with the police's approval and organizers called on participants to refrain from violence during the protest. Main roads were closed to traffic, and were reopened shortly after the protest ended.

Twenty Israeli and international artists performed during the demonstration, including singers Arkadi Duchin and Assaf Amdursky. Deputy mayor of Eilat Mata Be'eri and social activist Daphni Leef also attended the protest, with participants holding signs that read: "Let us lose our minds peacefully."

Demonstrations in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, July 18, 2019.
Moti Milrod

According to the protest's organizers, Thursday's demonstration was only the beginning of an ongoing fight for the "freedom to dance."

Organizers are demanding that legislation on outdoor venues be enacted, while taking into account all types of productions. 

Last week, a techno festival was cancelled due to concerns over drug trafficking while a festival scheduled for this week was nixed after organizers failed to meet licensing requirements, including obtaining large-scale security funding.

According to Shacahr Zirkin, one of the organizers of the three-day Doof Festival, the police changed their attitude toward large outdoor parties after two men died from drug overdose at the Neverland electronic music festival in October.

Demonstrations against the cancellation of music festivals, Tel Aviv, July 18, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The demonstration, dubbed "Let us dance in peace," was a continuation to a protest that took place in June after police cancelled the Doof Festival that was supposed to take in the Golan Heights, citing intelligence that suggested drugs would be sold at the event.  

During the previous demonstration, dozens of officers, many of them with the police's special forces, stormed into Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. Fifteen demonstrators were detained and one was lightly wounded in addition to two police officers, who were also lightly wounded.