An estimated 460,000 people gathered across the country on Saturday
evening to protest for social change as part of the "March of the
Million," Channel 10 news reported.
Over 300,000 people were in Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv where a huge rally was taking place after a march through the
streets of the city.
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Union Chairman Itzik Shmueli called on Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu to "Let us live in this country," during a speech at the rally
in Kikar Hamedina.
"Mr. Prime Minister, take a good look at us:
We're the new Israelis," he told the hundreds of thousands of people
who had gathered as part of the social protest movement rally.
want only one thing: To live in this country. We want not only to love
the State of Israel, but also to exist here respectfully, and to live
with dignity," he said.
Protests were taking place in 20 different cities across the the country including in Jerusalem, Haifa and Afula.
demonstration was billed as the climactic street protest of a movement
that has seen tent cities sprout up and forced quality-of-life issues
into the forefront of the political debate.
An estimated 25,000
demonstrators crowded into Paris Square, opposite the Prime Minister’s
residence in Jerusalem. Toddlers sitting on shoulders blew plastic
trumpets, teenagers in youth movement shirts danced and sang “My Bibi
has three apartments” to the tune of “Haman’s Hat Has Three Corners,”
and die-hard activists waved their well-worn signs as thousands thronged
through the King George Street.
“We came because the older
people also need to come and show their support and encourage the
younger generation,” said Hani, a 60-year-old Jerusalem resident
marching with her husband. “There’s a real chance that something will
change, things have already changed,” she said. “There’s a change in
thinking, there’s hope for optimism, that the way things were is not the
way things are going to be.”
Other demonstrators expressed more
cynicism. “I’m pessimistic but trying to be optimistic, I’m doubtful
that there will be a big change, but even if there’s a small change it
will be something,” said Lehi, who pushed her 11-month-old son, Tom, in a
stroller. Tom had been to many of the protests so far, said Lehi,
adding that perhaps someday he’ll be able to look back and say he was at
the Million Man March in Jerusalem. “I hope when he is older he will go
out and demonstrate for the things that are important to him,” she
said. “This struggle is not just important to make a change, it’s
important for the country, that the country stands up. People need to go
out and demonstrate for what’s important.”
The High Court of Justice ruled on Friday that the Transport Ministry
would run increased numbers of trains and replacement bus services on
Saturday night, to allow people to travel to Tel Aviv to take part in
the "March of the Million" protest.
The emergency hearing was the result of a petition filed by attorney
Shraga Biran of the 'Awakening In Jerusalem' social movement, after
Israel Railways announced plans to close the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv and
Beersheba - Tel Aviv lines on Saturday night.
The petition argued that the rail line closures made it impossible for
those without private transport to travel to Tel Aviv to attend Saturday
night's social justice protest march.
As part of the judgment, made by Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melzar,
Israel Railways have placed a notice on their website stating that extra
trains will run on the Tel Aviv coastal line and that the Transport
Ministry will run replacement bus lines on the Tel Aviv-Beersheba and
Tel Aviv-Jerusalem routes.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.