Vicki Knafo (third from left) leads a march of handicapped and financially disadvantaged persons in Tel Aviv on Sunday. .
(photo credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)
On a busy intersection near Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov bus station on Sunday some 20 Israelis from handicapped and economically disadvantaged backgrounds have stopped traffic to the dismay of the many drivers backed up in traffic as a result.
“Look us in the eye!” they shout on the sixth day of their 150-km. march, aimed at doubling the pension for Israel’s elderly and disabled to NIS 5100, which started last Tuesday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea and is scheduled to end Friday at the official Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.
“I am here for the people who don’t have things to eat, who are outside in the winter. I am here to tell the government to give the people the minimum they need to live.”
Vicki Knafo, who led a famous march for single mothers’ rights in 2003, told The Jerusalem Post
as passing pedestrians voiced support for the cause.
“I want Bibi to look them in the eye and say he can’t find 2,400 shekels,” she said.
The marchers carried Israeli flags and shouted as police corralled the rally and directed traffic.
Adjacent to the march was the Arlozorov Homeless Camp, a hodgepodge collection of tents approved by the municipality that originally was meant to house the remnants of the 2011 Israel social justice protests but now houses a few dozen homeless people.
Mordecai who declined to give his last name has been living in the camp for two years and has been homeless for five.
“Nobody cares about us. The government needs to see this chaos,” he said.
Avi Dabush who chairs the Periphery Movement and was participating in the march, said there needs to be “true change” for the people, noting that almost 2 million poor people in Israel, of which nearly 1 million are children.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 22% of Israelis live below the poverty line. Since joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2010, Israel has the second-highest poverty rate behind Mexico.
Sunday’s march started in one of Israel’s poorest neighborhoods, Givat Amal, in northern Tel Aviv where the residents are in the midst of an ongoing and complex eviction battle as construction companies have been permitted by the municipality to build skyscrapers on the land.
Menny Khalif, a resident of Givat Amal who was participating in the march, expressed outrage and a feeling of abandonment by the government.
“Luckily, I have family, but otherwise I’d be out in the street,” Khalif said. “Everyone is together against us – City Hall, the government, the courts. All I want is to have a house and roof, but they won’t give it to me.”
The march continued to Bat Yam, where Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah, Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Avia Spivak and other economists offered their solutions to combat poverty in Israel.
Yonah attacked Netanyahu and called on the government to “invest in social services and provide a solution to the ever-rising high cost of living.”
On Monday, the march will continue to Lod, where other Knesset members are expected to participate.
The group plans to erect a protest tent upon its arrival at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Friday.