For a protest camp that has had no shortage of strange moments – especially after nightfall – Wednesday evening may have reached a new level of lunacy.
At the corner of Rothschild and Marmorek, on the steps of the Bima National Theater, at least four demonstrations converged at once, spreading confusion and shouting matches, and leaving more than a few journalists and riot police puzzled and laughing.
A little after 6 p.m., a tractor carrying a giant milk bucket made its way down Rothschild to meet hundreds of dairy workers rallying outside the Bima, near the beginning of the Rothschild tent city.
As the tractor arrived, a group of around 15 animal-rights activists standing behind a “meat is murder” sign began to berate the dairy workers, screaming into a megaphone as the dairy workers – many of them wearing white cow-print hats, some with udders – stood across the street.
“The milk is for the cows’ babies! You are stealing their milk! Thieves! Thieves!,” one animal rights activist yelled, as a group of grinning cameramen swarmed to capture the scene.
An elderly gentleman from the dairy workers’ protest then walked over and yelled at the woman: “you should drink some milk! It might cure that disease in your head!” Another animal-rights activist yelled “do you pay for their [the cows’] medical insurance? Do you give them vacation days? They are your slaves!” Steps away, a group of around 15 YASSAM riot police called in to secure an impending march by Right-wing activists, smiled as they watched the strange back and forth unfold.
As the shouting match intensified, a group of several hundred Right-wing
activists carrying Israeli flags and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” burst
through the crowd and made their way down Rothschild, led by the riot
police. The press followed in tow, and presumably, the argument over
bovine labor conditions came to a halt.
At the same time, on Marmorek, a group of activists from the movement to
free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, gathered ahead of a march to
Ibn Gvirol, where they planned to block off the street to traffic.
Meters away, a group of reservists huddled ahead of a protest they were
set to hold over the unfair burden shouldered by the minority of
Israelis who perform reserve duty.
Elsewhere in central Tel Aviv, a march that had set off shortly before
from Rothschild to protest Israel’s declining school system, made its
way towards Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s house.
While the scene was not the norm for the Rothschild protest campsite, it
appeared to be an extreme example of the fragmented din of voices
emanating from the tent city.
For about 20 minutes on Wednesday, the bottom of the tent city looked
like a version of Lord of the Flies in which everyone is holding the
conch shell, and has been laying out in the sun for far too long.
Furthermore, it resembled a tragic comedy of errors all too fitting for the steps of the national theater.