Hundreds of people from Gaza border communities demonstrated in front of the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening, shouting “The residents of the South are saying: ‘enough!’”
This marks the third consecutive day that residents of the South have been protesting against the ceasefire with Hamas, which they see as being as fragile and temporary as all previous truces with the terrorist organization.
The protests on Tuesday and Wednesday in communities in the South
included burning tires, obstructing roads and blocking supply trucks seeking to enter the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Many high school students in the South declared a school strike to join the demonstrations.
On Thursday, the protesters took their demonstration to Tel Aviv, where they blocked several major roads in a bid to garner media coverage.
The event organizers are calling for a long-term solution to the rain of rockets and mortars from Gaza “because our children deserve to grow up in peace.”
Their protest came after a fierce barrage of nearly 500 rockets
on Monday and Tuesday fired by Hamas and other terrorist groups toward Israel.
The bombardment was the largest number of rockets ever fired at Israel from the coastal enclave within a 25-hour period.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) came under heavy scrutiny on Thursday for saying the barrage was “minor” since it did not target Tel Aviv,
a statement which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from later in the evening, saying: “The security of the South is the same as the security as the rest of Israel.” Hanegbi subsequently apologized for his remarks.
While Thursday’s protest in Tel Aviv was planned well in advance of Hanegbi’s ill-spoken comment, protesters noted that it added fuel to the fire.
“We’re here to make our voices heard,” said Maya Akerman Bayder, a resident of Kibbutz Or Haner near Sderot, and a leader of the “Protest for the Nation with the South.” She said the protesters want an immediate solution – both a diplomatic process and effective deterrence. “We can’t let them [Hamas] write the rules of the game,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
The South, she said, must be seen as an inseparable part of the country. “The moment our security is harmed, the security of the whole country is harmed. We are one community,” she added. “We want a future both for Gaza and for the South.”
Akerman Bayder also said that the residents of the South have no faith in the government.
“We feel like we’re not getting solutions,” she said, pointing to the seemingly endless cycle of violence. “We’re tired.”
Protesters chanted “Wake up Bibi: The South is on fire” and “No security, we’ll go to Ayalon [highway].” The protest paralyzed a mayor intersection in Tel Aviv, with police blocking off the roads to facilitate the protest.
George Rooks from Ashdod said he had come to support the people of the South, and while his city hadn’t been hit in the latest round of violence, he has many friends in the Gaza border communities.
“It’s a shame how the government has not responded to over six months of violence. We can’t believe the government thinks so little of the South,” Rooks told the Post, referring to HaNegbi’s comment.
The people of the South, added his wife Hila, “are not see-through.”
“I think our lives are equal to the lives of anyone else in the country,” she said.
Her husband said that the location of the protest in Tel Aviv, rather than in the South, increased the visibility of the cause. “If you want to be heard, you need to come here,” he asserted.
Akerman Bayder noted that people had come from all over the country to join the protest, and she felt like the level of support from residents who are not from the South is growing by the day.
“I really want there to be peace and quiet on both sides. We will not give up, and we will not let the government neglect us,” she said.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>