Several thousand people marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday in the first organized social justice demonstration since 89 people were arrested at a protest march that spun out of control last Saturday, with both protesters and police blaming each other for the ensuing violence and mayhem.
Unlike that rally, this Saturday’s was held with a permit and complete coordination with police.
Meanwhile, several hundred social justice protesters took part in a march in Jerusalem on Saturday night. The procession began at Paris Square and ended at Menorah Park, which is also known as Horse Park.
The protesters attempted to go onto the tracks of the Jerusalem Light Rail on a number of occasions but were cleared off by police forces accompanying them on the march.
In a press release put out on Thursday, the organizers of the Tel Aviv demonstration said, “Israel is at a turning point; the people are taking responsibility for their fate and returning to the streets. This Saturday, we will hit the streets and won’t give up. The state of Israel will return to its citizens.”
During the rally at the Tel Aviv Museum, protesters unveiled a “social justice convention,” which lays out their demands for the next government budget. The social document was signed by the Histadrut labor federation, the Kibbutz Movement, the Work and Study Youth movement, Dror Israel, and leaders of several different branches of the social protest movement.
The convention says that the main goal of the government’s economic policy needs to be closing social gaps and increasing the environmental and social quality of life in Israel with the intent of bringing it up to the level of the United States and Western Europe. The paper also calls for increased investment in the public sector and widespread reform in health, education, housing and welfare services, along with increased public housing and more investment in developing the periphery.
In addition, the convention calls for the government to take steps to ensure lower prices on staple goods, “more equality in taxation,” increased taxes on the highest income brackets, cancellation of the arrangements law, new limitations of the power of the Finance Ministry in budget-making, greater control over privatization and an end to the use of contract workers in the public sector.
The social contract was met with disapproval by a number of activists, who opposed the inclusion of the Histadrut and activists who they said don’t truly support social justices.
That group several hundred protesters broke off from the march and made their way to the Interior Ministry offices on Kaplan Street before heading to city hall to protest.
The speakers at Saturday night’s rally included, among others, retired police commander Zeev Even-Hen, whose daughter Topaz Even-Hen Klein died in the Mount Carmel forest fire, and University of Haifa Professor Yossi Yonah, one of the members of the movement’s alternative Trajtenberg committee.
Even-Hen appeared to be the central speaker of the event, and organizers called on the crowd to refrain from political chants during his speech. He spoke of his and other bereaved families’ plans to petition the Supreme Court with a suit calling for the termination of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in light of the findings of the state comptroller’s report of the fire. He also spoke of what he called a disregard for human life and a shirking of personal responsibility on the part of Israel’s leadership.
“The disregard for people’s lives is something that must be stopped and you must make this part of your protest. Look what happens: No one is responsible. The finance minister blames the interior minister; the interior minister blames the finance minister; the Finance Ministry says it’s the Prisons Service; they say it’s the police or the firefighters. Everyone says, ‘It wasn’t me, it was him.’ It’s one big kindergarten and the prime minister is in charge of it,” Even-Hen said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.