Twenty students were lightly wounded in confrontations with police, and 12 were
detained for questioning after a demonstration against the kollel stipend bill
took a violent turn Wednesday night and hundreds of students attempted to block
central traffic arteries in Tel Aviv.
Students from across the country
gathered outside the Tel Aviv Museum to voice their dissatisfaction with the
recently proposed amendment to the state budget to enable the funding of kollel
students, under the slogan of “we are not anti-haredi, we just want
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The organizers of the protest, the National Union of Israeli
Students (NUIS), ensured%that no politicians were present, and the main speakers
were well-known musicians, journalists and a haredi man who emphasized the need
for unity in the struggle. He urged that the state acknowledge the meaning of
learning Torah as part of the nation’s history, but invest equally in all its
Sections of the crowd booed parts of his speech, while others
cheered him on.
NUIS spokesperson Eyal Basson told The Jerusalem Post
that the student union would continue to speak out publicly all around the
He emphasized that this was not a campaign directed at the
haredi community, but at its leaders in the Shas party.
“We are going to
continue to work in the public and the parliamentary arena, and will not stop
until we get our message heard,” he said.
The NUIS was hoping for a large
turnout at Wednesday’s protest, similar to the nearly 10,000 students who
protested in Jerusalem against the same bill over two weeks ago.
who estimated the number of protesters at between 1,500 and 2,000, maintained
that he was not disappointed by the turnout.
“Jerusalem is a city of
protests, and lots of local movements took part in that demonstration,” he said,
explaining the difference in numbers. “Tel Aviv is a nonprotesting
Another student traveled all the way from Tel Hai to attend the
protest because he felt that as the future of the country, students had the
power to enact change.
“The government should stand for the rights of the
youth and invest money in them. Their bills are not working on us,” student Lony
After the speeches, during a concert by singer Yirmi
Kaplan, the students took to Rehov Shaul Hamelech in an attempt to reach nearby
Rehov Ibn Gvirol, one of the city’s main streets. Mounted policemen blocked the
protesters, who were chanting “Bibi wake up, the students are worth more!” But
rowdy students soon broke the police line and began running toward the main
junction with Da Vinci Street to stop traffic. A fistfight ensued between police
and some protesters, and traffic soon had to be diverted off the main road as
the students gained momentum, becoming louder and more aggressive. Police
struggled to control the crowd and eventually resorted to pepper spray in a bid
to disperse the masses.
Basson later claimed that 12 students had been
arrested and 20 wounded. Some of them were hospitalized, including student union
head Itzik Shmuli, but all were released from the hospital later, he
Earlier Wednesday, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar met with
students at Bar-Ilan University to discuss the bill and promote dialogue between
the different sectors of Israeli society.
“The law should be egalitarian,
for the benefit of everyone. It is not only for the good of the university
students, but also of the kollel students, that the latter shouldn’t have a
special law,” Amar said. “I was promised that the law would address everyone’s
The rabbi repeated his praise of the student leadership, who “are
responsible and seek their well-being without hurting others and spreading
He reiterated the need to seek unity and avoid infighting in a
diverse Jewish nation composed of different Diasporas and opinions.
unifying factor, the Jewish heritage, is stronger than all the differences
setting us apart,” he declared.
This was the second meeting between Amar
and students in recent weeks in an attempt to lower the flames around United
Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni’s amendment to the Economic Arrangements Bill
calling to include stipends for kollel students. The High Court of Justice ruled
in June that it was discriminatory to pay special stipends to full-time yeshiva
students and not to university students, as the state had been doing since
Gafni himself has also been busy proving that he in no way seeks to
show preference to the haredi sector he represents over the students. The haredi
lawmaker attended a public debate on his proposal at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem last week, explaining to an auditorium full of students why and how
the state should continue to support its Torah scholars, stressing that only a
small number of those living in poverty actually received this specific
On Tuesday, the Knesset Finance Committee, which he heads,
separated a proposed tax on students’ scholarships from the rest of the budget,
a move that could stall or prevent the tax’s implementation, and a clear gesture
in favor of the students.