Protest tent in Eilat 311.
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
At the height of Eilat’s busy season, five hours drive from the hundreds of
tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, 400 residents of the country’s
southernmost city took to the streets on Saturday night for a protest that put
an emphasis on the country’s periphery.
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It was the second such protest
held in Eilat; a similar one last Saturday night drew 1,500 people in what
organizers say was the biggest protest the city had ever seen.
history last week,” said a proud Moran Eloffer, who joined forces with a
neighbor and other activists she met on Facebook to start the Eilat
Eloffer said it was even more meaningful that the city of
60,000 was able to get such a large turnout in August, when most locals work
long hours because of the influx of tourists.
Compared with Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem, where protests can sometimes take on an affected nature, the Eilat
demonstration on Saturday night felt like a party for the new kid on the block.
The organizers had to keep reminding the participants not to march so fast. And
it might be the only protest in the country where the march was stopped for
mandatory water breaks.
With nighttime temperatures approaching the high
20s or the low 30s, no one sleeps in Eilat’s two tent cities, which were founded
two weeks ago.
They do, however, hold activities there, said Tomer
Guiaire, another protest organizer.
“This week, all of the organizers
from the South met with organizers in Tel Aviv, and we decided that we needed to
strengthen the periphery, to show it’s not just about northern Tel Avivians but
it’s about all the cities across the country,” Guiaire said, as demonstrators
chanted “Eilat is on the map! Eilat is on the map!” “All the political protests
the past month, we didn’t really feel them in Eilat,” said Dr. Kobi Arad, head
of emergency medicine at the city’s Yoseftal Hospital.
“Here we have a
different mentality, but it’s nice to see that also here we’re waking
Many demonstrators said distance made them feel disconnected to the
protests in Tel Aviv, but that slowly the edges of the country are realizing
they need to join the struggle in their own neighborhoods.
“It took time
for the periphery to understand that there’s really something happening,” said
Einat Ben-Moshe, a nurse who came with her family from Kibbutz Eilot, 3
km. north of the Red Sea.
“When you see 300,000 people in the
streets [across the country], you understand, it’s easier to get people in the
streets [in Eilat],” she said, referring to the Saturday night protest a week
Eilat residents are feeling the same economic strain as the rest of
the country, which is magnified by their distance to other major centers
“This week, I was trying to figure out whether to buy food or
books for my daughter’s school year,” said Chen Attoum, a 33- year-old mother of
two who works in her family business. “I make good money, but with everything, I
just can’t make ends meet.”
Due to its isolation and focus on the tourism
industry, Eilat has unique challenges. But Guiaire insisted that the important
thing was that the demonstrators in Tel Aviv understand that Eilat residents are
supporting the struggle and fighting for the same things.
“Now is our
chance to show the country that the hotel receptionist and the guy driving the
banana boat are also human beings,” he said. “There are 60,000 people here who
need education, transportation and healthcare, just like the people in Tel