Dozens of residents of communities near the Gaza Strip set up tents on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard Thursday evening to protest the security situation in the south. The protesters planned to stay in the 10 tents overnight.
They also invited the heads of all the political parties to come and talk with them. Among those who accepted the invitation were Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz and Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay.
Gantz arrived shortly before 7 P.M. and sat on the floor to talk with the protesters. “When I’m prime minister, you’ll be welcome in my home,” he promised.
In addition to fighting terror, Israel must help Gaza become a normal place, Gantz said. “That’s an Israeli interest. With a strong population, Hamas will be weak.”
“Ultimately, the government’s job is to supply two things – decisions and truth,” he continued. But the current government “is afraid of what they’ll say in internet comments and of the trolls on Facebook.”
Labor Knesset candidate Haim Jelin, who lives near the Gaza border, arrived with the first protesters, but they stressed that the protest isn’t partisan. Consequently, a booth for the Hayamin Hehadash party erected at the site was dismantled immediately, on the organizers’ orders.
Gefen Hova of Moshav Dekel, near the Gaza border, came to the tent with her daughter. “They’ve described us as a resilient front,” she said. “But our resilience is exhausted and our strength is broken. We don’t feel we’re getting backing. My son isn’t willing to take a shower without someone sitting there to watch him.”
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Yaheli, of Kibbutz Holot, added, “There are more news reporters than protesters here. When the business moves to Tel Aviv, everyone comes. But when we’re suffering missile strikes, nobody comes.”
He added that in his view, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has forgotten who serves whom.” But some of the passersby criticized the protesters. “If they want a solution, they should stop voting for Bibi,” one woman said.
One man got into a vocal argument with the protesters. “What you want?” he screamed. “To go in with tanks?”
“We want the government to take responsibility for the western Negev,” a protester answered.
Maor Elbaz of Netivot, one of the organizers, said he’s under no illusion that the protest will change the situation, but “we’re going to get one night of rest, after a year of not sleeping all night because of the explosions.”
“We’re not interested in politics; we want to know what solutions whatever government is established has,” he continued. “We haven’t been told anything. We haven’t even been told there is no solution. It’d be one thing if they’d told us to suck it up for another few months until there’s an agreement, but we haven’t been told that, either.”
Another organizer, Ronit Ifargen of Kfar Aza, said that both Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and Hayamin Hehadash Chairman Naftali Bennett had stayed overnight in Gaza-area communities several times.
“But the ruling party not only hasn’t come at night, it’s never come to hear us at all,” she added. “I don’t need a speech from Bibi; I want to hear him tell me I have hope and a future here, to tell me there’s a solution, that I won’t continue living this way.”