Dozens of merchants and business owners protested in the central city of Rishon Letzion on Sunday, some of them setting their merchandise on fire, against the government's stalling of reopening retail stores and shopping centers after weeks of lockdown to curb coronavirus infection.
Acts of protest included burning merchandise, tires and mannequins, as well as holding up signs portraying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied by slogans such as: "Merchants are running out of oxygen, half a million businesses are on their way to ventilators."
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The protests come after a new series of coronavirus regulations took effect at 6 A.M. Sunday as Israel continues to gradually relax its autumn lockdown, which exluded retail stores and shopping centers.
One of the protesters, an owner of a fashion chain, said: "We are suffering and we have stopped being silent. We have listened to Mr. Bibi and his stupid government and since then a month and a half have passed without an answer or interest in our direction. I voted for the right and now I am mad. They have not helped us, they are abandoning us."
Another merchant said: "We are tired, how much longer can we possible take this? People are unable to feed their families, [the government] doesn't understand. During the first wave it was difficult, but when we returned [to work] we were able to breathe a little – and now suddenly everything stopped. People are tired of it."
An owner of two toy chains added: "The three months during the holidays are the busiest for us; they amount to a quarter of the year but account for a third of our annual income." Blaming the Israeli government he said "elected officials sit in front of the cameras and say they understand us and will help us – but where are they?"
A similar protest took place on Thursday in which dozens of merchants and business owners demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding the reopening of trade activities, and also burning their goods. The demonstrators, mostly from the textile industry, blocked roads in the city's south as the coronavirus cabinet convened to debate whether to permit a reopening of shops next week.
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Earlier, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said, “We must open the storefronts immediately, they’re on the verge of collapse. What’s the point of this mad policy? The Health Ministry has severed itself from the people and acting coldly. People have built businesses with their own hands and are being left with nothing.”