Social protest rally in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tens of thousands of people on Saturday night took
part in the first mass social justice protest in Israel in the past two months,
signaling what organizers said is the movement’s return to the
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The centerpiece of the rallies was a march in Tel Aviv, which
set out from the former site of the Rothschild Boulevard tent city to Rabin
Square, where a mass demonstration was held.
The rallies took place
against the backdrop of a serious escalation in Israel’s south
. Earlier in the
day, IAF air strikes killed five Islamic-Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and
a flurry of rockets hit the South, including one that struck a residential
building in Ashdod.
The escalation forced organizers to cancel a
demonstration planned in Beersheba, well within the range of Gaza rocket
The main demonstration in Tel Aviv was only a fraction of the
size of the mass protests of the summer, but still managed to bring thousands
into the streets, despite waning public interest and media coverage of the
During the march in Tel Aviv, two people were arrested while
scuffling with police. The incident began when a group of three men wearing
blindfolds and lying still in the street were moved by police, who were quickly
surrounded by a crowd of shouting protesters.
The protest showed
influences from the Occupy Wall Street movement, including signs saying “we are the 99%,” and one sign that read
Occupy Oakland, an California city.
A prominent message of the protest
was again the need for a “welfare state,” but also for the state to scrap the
current national budget, and forge a “social budget,” with greater spending on
Vicky Vann, who was part of a group of Jerusalemites
staying in a vacant building in the capital until it was forcibly evacuated last
week, spoke to the crowd with an emphasis on the problems faced by Israel’s
“I am demanding from this stage that our decision-makers
implement the public housing law immediately, that they free up the funds in
Jerusalem and across the country for immediate public housing! “There are people
today who are still sleeping in the campsites, so I demand that we find a
The state must stop evicting people from the
streets, when the streets are their home, to stop demolishing houses that don’t
meet the housing criteria.
“Will there have to be an earthquake like in
Turkey so I can get a trailer or a house? We are not waiting anymore; we are
taking responsibility and continuing the struggle, infiltrating buildings,
building a new way of life there to fight for free education for everyone – to
start a new reality.”
Yael Baroda, a young mother who was one of the
initiators of the so-called “stroller marches” by parents over the summer, told
the crowd that the issues facing parents in Israel remain unresolved.
rent an apartment in Tel Aviv. Both my husband and I have advanced degrees and
work hard, but we also – just like you and Israelis across the country – do not
see ourselves with the possibility of attaining a mortgage.”
she was living in an “economic war of attrition,” and accused the government of
“encouraging us to have children, but then abandoning us to the free
“We, Arab and Jewish women, religious and Jewish women are the
last priority of the national leadership… the workforce does not present employment that can match the high cost of
In Jerusalem on Saturday night, thousands of demonstrators
marched from the city’s Gan Hasus (Horse Park) toward the Knesset. The
demonstrators carried signs that read “We won’t be satisfied with crumbs” and
“When the government is against the people, the people are against the
Among those marching in Jerusalem was National Student Union
head Itzik Shmuli. Reports last week said there had been a rift between Shmuli
and protest leader Daphni Leef, but a spokesman for the movement said no such
rift existed and the union refused to comment on the matter.
Saturday, rallies were held in Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Hod Hasharon and Modi’in,
among others locations.Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.