Hundreds of right-wing activists led by riot police marched down Rothschild Boulevard on Wednesday evening, ahead of setting up a few dozen tents at the far end of the campsite.
Chanting “There is no Right, there is no Left, everyone wants affordable living” and “We are all Jews,” the marchers were mainly met by blank stares and dismissal, though insults were tossed about between them and the tent city protesters, and a few shoving matches almost came to blows.
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The march, organized by a collection of right-wing groups, including Im Tirtzu, Ra’ananim, Yisrael Sheli, Beitar, and the Bnei Akiva youth movement, also called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stay in office and solve the housing problem. Organizers said the protest march was called largely because they think those leading the tent city protests are trying to orchestrate Netanyahu’s ousting while hiding behind social issues.
Sitting on a bench at the southern end of Rothschild Boulevard, steps from Allenby, far-right activist Baruch Marzel framed Wednesday’s protest action as a continuation of years of “social activism” on his part, and part of his worldview devoted to looking after his [Jewish] neighbor.
“All of my life I’ve worked for social justice, and this is what we’re here for. I don’t identify with many people here, but the point is that the middle class is becoming weaker in Israel.”
When asked if it is feasible to expect a mass migration of young Israeli couples from the center of the country to the settlements of the West Bank, he said “the nearby areas of Judea and Samaria are only 15 minutes away from here, and you can build houses there for everyone in need.
“The social situation in Judea and Samaria is a model for all of Israel.
The mix of religious and secular, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi is like nowhere else in Israel.”
He said Rothschild Boulevard is not the easiest place for religious youth to camp out, especially not with all of the immodest dress on display, but the youth would know how to behave. He also said they would build a synagogue at the site as soon as possible.
Assaf Levy, one of the more prominent members of the tent city protest movement, sat with Marzel and framed the social struggle as one that is not about politics.
“This is not only an economic revolution, it’s also a social one and part of its goal is to break down the idea of Left and Right. The settlers are very different than us in many different ways, but that doesn’t change that we have many things in common. Both of us are Jews and part of a heritage thousands of years old.” Levy said the Left vs. Right paradigm is forged by Israeli MKs, while saying “turning one part of the public against another part is what the Knesset does all the time.
This brotherhood is our answer to the MKs who just try to get us to fight one another all the time in order to not pay attention to what they’re [the Knesset members] doing.”
This view was not shared by everyone, including Yonatan Reslik, who shouted “fascists” and “racists” at the march as it passed his tent on Rothschild.
“I think this demonstration is the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s a group of racist fascists who came here and are acting like they are part of this social struggle.
This is a disgrace.”
He also accused them of trying to “hitch a ride” on the social protest movement.