AN ETHIOPIAN-ISRAELI demonstrator is restrained by two policemen in downtown Tel Aviv on Sunday.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The words “the battle of the Cinnabon” might not stir the emotions too much. Nonetheless, the destroyed glass front door was one of the few noticeable remnants of Sunday night’s rioting that could still be seen the next day around Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
Owner Katya Sorinov said she was still waiting for the door to be replaced, after it was shattered when the protest in the square descended into chaos.
Her husband Ronen was working the store at the time, and told her that a rock thrown by a protester shattered the glass, around the same time that rioters began grabbing the chairs outside and throwing them at police.
Ronen waited until things quieted down and took the chairs back, none of which had been stolen, she added.
Katya said she thinks the protesters were influenced by events in the US, in particular in Baltimore, saying “everything in the US has had an impact on them. They understand that if they don’t make noise they won’t be heard.”
A few doors down, kiosk owner Kobi Eligrabi was unimpressed.
He closed early Sunday night, at 9:30, though he said by then they’d already made their money for the day and didn’t see any reason to take chances. He wasn’t moved by the protest, saying “what protest? That was just a bunch of drunks. Earlier there was a protest; that was something else.”
Though he was dismissive of the whole spectacle, he did add that it was the only time he’d ever closed early.
Broken glass, shards of exploded stun grenades, and stones were still scattered here and there in Rabin Square on Monday afternoon, but as long as you kept your eyes above ground, you wouldn’t have known what took place there the night before – though the foreign TV crews doing standup segments in the square may have given you a hint.
City hall, the second floor which had been turned into a triage unit for wounded police and protesters, was humming along with Israelis waiting to settle their municipal tax and water bills, an entirely different level of pain than that experienced the night before.
Overall the square was back to its usual self – sunny, quiet, and relaxed, with underemployed Israelis lazing in the middle of the work day on lawn chairs set out by the city.
Yael Ben-Saadon and her friend Raz, both former hi-tech workers in between jobs, kicked back on the lawn chairs and tried to unpack the events of the night before.
“I don’t feel good about it.
I’m very in favor of their protest, but it doesn’t make sense to go to this level of violence [by protesters],” she said, though she said that she does identify with the struggle of Ethiopian Israelis.
Raz disagreed with the assertion that the protesters had to act up to get heard, saying “what about the social justice protests in 2011? People heard them. The last thing we need with all our enemies is to be violent to one another.”
A group of five Ethiopian Israelis sat on a bench in the square and were interviewed at length by an Israeli TV crew.
They spoke about all types of issues far beyond just police brutality, from unemployment to education to “separate but unequal” and whether or not they dream in Hebrew or Amharic (mixed results).
They had a sympathetic ear with Yaara and Ela, two sisters pushing their infant children in strollers, who put the blame solely with the police for Sunday night’s violence, and said it was up to the Ethiopians to keep going.
“They need to keep going until they get what they want from the establishment,” Yaara said, her sister agreeing.