idf disabled veterans protest 248 88.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Dozens of disabled IDF veterans protested in Tel Aviv on Monday, blocking traffic and burning tires at one of the city's busiest intersections.
Wearing shirts emblazoned with the logo "sorry we were wounded," the veterans, many in wheelchairs, blocked eastbound traffic at the Hashalom interchange outside the Azrieli mall, leading to serious gridlock on the southbound lanes of the Ayalon freeway.
The event was part of a week of demonstrations to be held at the junction, located a few blocks from the Kirya military headquarters. The protests are being arranged by the Disabled IDF Veterans Association, with activists converging on the junction each day to protest what they say is the lack of respect shown to them by the government and the leaders of the defense establishment.
Kobi Yitzhak, the head of the association's Tel Aviv branch, said the protest was held "to demand the respect we deserve. There are 50,000 disabled IDF veterans and it is time to show we are together and we demand the respect they took from us."
Yitzhak, who was wounded while serving in the elite Egoz reconnaissance unit in the First Lebanon War and now uses a wheelchair, added, "We are not ready to accept a situation where the defense minister stays in luxury suites in Paris spending millions of shekels at the same time they tell us there isn't money for our benefits."
Yitzhak's sentiment was echoed by many protesters at the demonstration, who slammed Barak for the nearly NIS 1 million he and his entourage spent to attend the Paris Air Show in June. The expenses included a reported $2,500 per night for Barak's hotel suite.
Many protesters held signs reading: "Rabin, disabled veterans miss you," a reference to former prime minister and IDF chief of General Staff Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated 14 years ago last week. Many donned fake blood, bandages and make-up resembling bullet wounds and lacerations, and lay in the middle of the road creating a mock battlefield of wounded soldiers.
MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) addressed the protesters, vowing that he would voice their concerns before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday and would push for a Knesset hearing on disabled veterans' benefits. Every time Paz-Pines invoked the name of the defense minister, loud boos drowned out his megaphone.
"We must discuss these issues. We can't allow a situation where they [disabled veterans] have to come here and protest in order to have their voices heard. It's an embarrassment for the country, not for them," Paz-Pines told The Jerusalem Post.
Eyal Eliyahu, who suffered serious burns in a suicide bombing that took the lives of 12 soldiers outside Metulla in 1985, said he had been subjected to a series of reductions and delays in his treatment, and had suffered no shortage of emotional trauma since that day 24 years ago.
"I still have nightmares, and I don't understand how they [IDF brass] can sleep at night, when we can't sleep," Eliyahu said.
As the sun went down the protesters dispersed to their homes across the country, vowing to return on Tuesday.