Tel Aviv on Saturday joined hundreds of cities across the globe holding “October 15” demonstrations, focused on a message of greater economic equality and opportunity, and increased citizen participation in public life.

The Israeli version was a small and rather laid-back event, light years from the tear gas and fire of Rome.

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The global demonstrations are largely inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest that began on September 17, and its message that “we are the 99 percent” (that is not rich) that has steadily gained greater media attention in recent weeks.

The gathering at the Tel Aviv Museum hearkened back to an earlier protest closer to home, and seemed an extension of the open discussions, art exhibits and jam sessions that gave life to the Rothschild tent city, albeit set up in an open, breezy plaza during the Succot holiday weekend.

Though it got off to a slow start, by Saturday evening several hundred people were milling around the plaza, checking out the information booths and art exhibits, including a collection of photos taken of in the tent cities of Tel Aviv and Holon since July 14, when the “J14 movement” for lower housing prices started.

The plaza also featured a “Hyde Park” speakers area where anyone could voice his opinions about global economics, capitalism or, presumably, the weather, as well as projector screens that were airing live footage from October 15 demonstrations around the world.

Across the plaza, dozens of carpets were laid out, and discussions were held on globalization, the role of banks in Israel’s social problems, the power of consumer boycotts, and “love, relationships and capitalism,” to name a few.

Tel Aviv lawyer Dor Nachman, 29, helped spread the word about the event and was making the rounds on Saturday as a spokesman for the Israeli branch of the global protest day.

When asked if the fact that the event, like the J14 movement, did not seem to speak with a unified voice, Nachman said, “There isn’t one voice because there are many voices. The one-voice idea is the problem with our politics; we want people to come and have voices heard that weren’t heard before.

“All of these events here in Israel and around the world are driven by the same concept: There are no leaders, and we are all the leaders.”

As for whether or activities such as Saturday night’s rally can count on large support or public interest in Israel when major news events like the imminent release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Nachman said, “I don’t think people have stopped paying attention, [to social justice protests], but the problem in Israel is that people are always paying attention to one thing at a time. But there are many issues on the public agenda. Gilad Schalit is a subject very close to all of our hearts, I’m very happy he’s being released. But the protest is not over, the government knows the protest is not over. We don’t need to always just focus on one thing. We need to focus on the social issues just like the security issues.”


On the www.15october.net website affiliated with the global October 15 movement, a statement said that Saturday’s events were held because “from America to Asia, from Africa to Europe, people are rising up to claim their rights and demand a true democracy. Now it is time for all of us to join in a global nonviolent protest. United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future. We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers who do not represent us.”

The Tel Aviv event culminated in a gathering held outside the “Peoples’ House” squat house/co-op at 69 Rothschild Boulevard. “Occupy Rothschild” was held in part to protest what organizers said was the municipality’s refusal to allow a street party at the site on Saturday, according to an announcement on the J14.org.il website, affiliated with the J14 social justice movement.

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