Clashes in Central Tel Aviv as Hundreds Protest Cancellation of Music Festival

15 detained after demonstrators block major street in protest of Supreme Court's backing of a police decision to disallow trance festival, citing planned drug trafficking

Police on horseback trying to control the crowd at Rabin Square, June 7, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Hundreds of Israelis took to the streets in central Tel Aviv late Friday to protest the cancellation of a trance music festival, with some blocking a major street for nearly an hour and clashing with police forces, who violently dispersed the spontaneous demonstration.

The three-day Doof Festival was set to take place in Hamat Gader, a hot springs resort in the Golan Heights, starting Friday, but police banned it earlier this week, citing intelligence that suggests drugs would be sold at the venue.

The organizers, who said they had already obtained nearly all of the necessary permits, including by the police, asked the Nazareth Magistrate's Court on Tuesday to reverse the police's decision but were rejected, leading to a Supreme Court appeal, which was also rejected earlier on Friday.

"We regret the situation … and hope our tradition will carry on," said one of the organizers, Shahar Zirkin. Despite a smaller alternative event planned for Saturday in central Israel, some of the 4,000 people who had purchased tickets for the festival refused to accept the rave was cancelled.

Police initially said it would allow the gathering at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, where protesters blasted trance music and chanted they "wouldn't let the police crash our party," but at 11 P.M. officers stopped the music and called on the crowd to leave.

Dozens of officers, many of them with the police's special forces, then stormed into the square, pushing and dropping protesters to the ground for about half an hour. 15 were detained and one protester was lightly wounded after taking a blow to his head as he was taken into police custody. Two police officers were also lightly wounded.

Police detain a protester at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, June 7, 2019.
Meged Gozani
A protester is seen in front of police forces at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, June 7, 2019.
Meged Gozani

"We gave them the option to clear quietly," a police official said, stressing the demonstration had not been authorized. "We would allow freedom of speech, but can't allow physical or verbal violence."

One of the protest leaders said Friday's demonstration was "a small victory," adding it was the result of anger over an isolated incident. "We're not planning our next move. … We go on with an understanding that we're not keeping silent and that we can work together."

"This is the first step in our war," another protester said. The police, he added, "together with the Supreme Court sent us home, but we rise up with our voice loud and clear. We live in a country where a person who wants to dance dances and a person who want to go to the beach goes to the beach."

Demonstrators in the fountain at Kikar Rabin, June 7, 2019.
Meged Gozani
Protesters argue with police forces at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, June 7, 2019.
Meged Gozani