“I never believed we’d reach one hundred but we’ll reach two hundred if necessary” said a demonstrator over a megaphone at the one hundredth demonstration Saturday against alleged corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. The protest took place opposite Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s house at Goren Square in Petah Tikva.
Hardcore demonstrators, made up of a group of 20 people in their 50s and 60s, have been coming to the square every single week for 100 times.
An hour before the protest starts, they set up full-size images of all the people involved in the cases associated with Netanyahu, from Miki Ganor to Eliezer Marom (associated with the submarine case), to Ari Harow and Nir Hefetz, former advisers to the prime minister. At the center is the image of Mendelblit, with a wreath of flowers on his head and surrounded by files.
“Good evening, only Bibi” says a passerby with disdain. Other calls in a similar vein are heard during the demonstration. At its peak, the protests brought more than one thousand people to the square next to the attorney general's dwelling, with 20 other sites across the country also drawing protesters. In Petah Tikva, demonstrators were met by Netanyahu supporters across the road. These counter-protesters are no longer present.
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“If we didn’t come here, corruption wouldn’t be on the public agenda, even though the media doesn’t cover us,” says Benny Kutin, a father of four who comes every week. “We sit tight on him here and we won’t budge.”
Protest leader Orly Bar-Lev tells Haaretz she’s unhappy with the lack of media coverage. “There are citizens protesting for one hundred weeks and the media has abandoned us. Without this there is nothing, it’s giving the country away without a struggle. I meet young people who just want to leave. They don’t come here, they’re desperate.”
The demonstrators’ children don’t come with them. “How can I demand that others come when my own daughter doesn’t?” says one of them. “They struggle to survive, what can I tell them?”
Several speakers mount a stage and talk to the crowd. “The ones who come here are the gatekeepers since the official ones are in the service of politicians” says one of them. “We’ve come despite rain, High Court injunctions and the police. We’ll soon be marking two years of uninterrupted weekly demonstrations,' says another with pride.
Meni Naftali, who launched the protests, is happy that they are continuing. “I considered stopping for a while, but some of us are keeping the flame of protest alive, seeing that corruption has become the norm.”