'We Need to Learn From the French': Yellow Vest Protests Make Their Way to Israel

Emulating fluorescent traffic-safety vests worn by protesters in France, demonstrations set to take place Friday in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv over the recent increase in food items and utilities

The 'Yellow Vests' protests in France, December, 2018.
PASCAL ROSSIGNOL / Reuters

Protests are planned for Friday in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem against a wave of increases in the price of some food items and utilities, and the organizers of the demonstrations are calling on protesters to show up wearing yellow fluorescent traffic safety vests similar to what demonstrators in France have worn in recent weeks in their protests against the cost of living.

>>UPDATE: Hundreds rally in Yellow Vest protest in Tel Aviv; 10 arrested

“The time has come to learn from the French. We’re done being nice,” the protest organizers said in a statement. Scheduled at noon at central locations – near Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv and Paris Square in Jerusalem -- the organizers said: “There’s been a wild response on the part of young people and college students, by adults who are concerned about the future of the country, of families facing economic difficulties.”

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Several politicians have expressed an interest in the protest, including Yair Lapid, the Yesh Atid party chairman and former finance minister, who was photographed wearing a yellow vest and sparked criticism in social media. Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli, who was one of the leaders of the wave of cost-of-living protests in Israel in 2011, and his party colleague Eitan Cabel have convened a session of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee next week on the recently announced price increases.

The Israel Electric Corporation recently announced that electricity rates would be going up by 6.9 to 8.1 percent and the Water Authority has said water prices would increase by 4.5 percent in January. In addition, several food manufacturers have announced price hikes.

Osem said this week that it would increase the price of its products at the beginning of 2019 by 2 to 4.5 percent, while Tnuva said it would boost prices by 2 to 3 percent. Bakeries have also asked that the retail cost of price-controlled bread be allowed to go up by 3.4 percent.

On the protest organizers’ Facebook page, about 4,000 people have expressed interest or said they would be attending one of the demonstrations. Noting that the prices of electricity, water and food products are going up, the Facebook page takes the government to task, saying it had promised to deal with the cost of living. “In recent weeks, we have seen how citizens have taken to the streets in France and elsewhere around the world, putting on yellow vests and making noise until the government listens to them. Now is the tine to make that happen in Israel too.”

For hundreds of thousands of people in Israel, news of the price increases is “a slap in the face for the weakest members of society,” the organizers said.