Tent protesters hold vigil 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Holding candles, light sticks and torches, thousands marched in a candlelight
vigil in Tel Aviv Saturday night to mourn those who lost their lives in the
combined terror attacks in the southern Negev on Thursday, leaving eight
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The march was organized by leaders of the Social Issues
Protest Movement, and marked the first weekend since mid-July that the movement
did not hold a mass demonstration.
Following the attacks on Thursday,
organizers – including the National Student Union – announced that they would
cancel all protest actions for Saturday night, but later relented to those in
the movement who said that the escalation in the south should not completely
derail the movement.
Organizers estimated the crowd at 25,000, though it
appeared to be far smaller.
While the gathering had been billed as the
“march of silence,” and organizers called for political messages to be absent,
there were some signs advocating social welfare issues – though the march lacked
megaphone-led calls for “social justice,” or the return of the welfare
Hours before the march started, Hamas called off their truce with
Israel following a series of IAF air raids on the Gaza Strip since Thursday that
left over 12 Gazans dead. Later in the day, a Beersheba man was killed when a
grad rocket struck his home.
Several organizers at the vigil said they
felt it presented an opportunity not only to show solidarity with the victims of
the recent bloodshed, but also to send a message of peace as the body count
threatened to climb in the coming days.
Shortly after the march began, a
series of shoving matches broke out between protesters after a small group of
marchers carrying red flags began chanting antiwar slogans. Police quickly
separated the two sides and the rest of the march took place without
Assaf Levy, a participant who has been active in the moment
since it began in mid-July, said that Saturday’s vigil was “a turning point in
“It’s presented an opportunity for the people to say that
they want peace,” he said. “Also, [it’s] an opportunity to say that the people
aren’t only against the economic system, but also the security and policy system
in Israel. For decades we have been stuck in this circle of murder that never
ends. We want to break this cycle and live in a Middle East that is different
than the one we live in today.”
A participant named Noam, who came from
the Levinsky Park tent city to take part in the vigil said: “I am against the
continued stupidity in which the people sit at home and are expected to just
believe that everyone in the region hates you and wants you and your family
dead, and you have no choice but to accept this and be quiet. This is why I’m
here, I can’t vouch for the rest of the people here.”
After making its
way from the Rothschild tent city through central Tel Aviv, the vigil march
ended at the Charles Clore park on the Tel Aviv seashore, where thousands
gathered in a giant circle talking and singing songs until the late hours of the
night. A moment of silence for the victims of the recent attacks was also
When asked why he took part in the vigil, Tel Aviv resident
Lior Arnan said “the march says two things: first, that we must always keep in
mind the security issues we face; but also that we cannot forget about the
social protest that is taking place, which is also very important.
not on the same level, but still very important.”
When asked about calls
to cancel the protests for this week in the wake of the escalation in the south,
he said, “if we’re always going to worry about just one thing [security] then
we’ll never get anywhere.
We can’t wait until there are no security
threats to deal with the social issues. We’ve been waiting 63 years, we can’t