More than a thousand Israelis gathered around more than 200 roundtables in Tel Aviv on Saturday, as part of a social experiment that was the first of its kind in Israel.

The event, entitled “1,000 tables,” was held at the plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and in other locations in dozens of other cities across Israel. It took place on the first Saturday night since the social protest movement started on July 14th that a series of protest marches was not held.

RELATED:
'Guardian' editorial praises social movement, Leef
The tents may be down, but the social issues remain

The group’s Facebook page refers to the event’s roundtable discussions as “a giant dialogue of the masses, the first of its kind, which will foster thought, discussion and allow us to examine together what we are demanding and how we bring about the optimal change.”

The page said the event “will clarify the goals of the [social issues] struggle, form an extensive database of the real needs of the public and prepare practical means to attain them.”

The plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Saturday night resembled an enormous speed dating gathering or open air bingo hall. Participants were given randomly selected table numbers by ushers and at each table perfect strangers met and discussed whatever social issues they wished. Designated “social issues experts” were on hand to facilitate discussion, and at each table, at least one participant took record of the minutes on a laptop, compiling the suggestions for uploading to the Internet.

The event was quiet and well-behaved until a surprise visit was made by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who was quickly hounded by a couple dozen protesters. As they shouted “Dictator!” and “Huldai go home!”, he stopped to chat at a few of the tables, encircled by a phalanx of special YASSAM riot police.

Within minutes, Huldai, who described the protesters as a fringe group of extremists on the outer margins of the movement, was hustled into a waiting car and driven off.

In keeping with the social media friendly movement, all of the suggestions offered by the participants will be compiled online and become part of a database of demands that can be accessed by the public. They will also compile a document with a synopsis of the demands, which organizers said will then be posted on the social issues website at http://j14.org.il.

One of the organizers of the event, Danny Gal, said the purpose is “to allow any citizen who wants to have his voice heard and be part of the designing of the face of Israel to come and take part.”

“We are in a period of change and the public can no longer be ignored. Decision-makers today can’t continue to ignore what people are demanding and no leader can just assume he knows what the people want.”

Click for full JPost coverage

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger