Israel’s motorcyclists once again took the road in protest on Wednesday morning, revving up for a three-day demonstration ride across the country.
The motorcyclists are protesting against government-mandated insurance premium hikes and are riding under the timely Pessah slogan “From bondage to freedom.”
To get their message across in an “appropriate” fashion, the organizers issued a statement that tells their story in the language of the Haggada.
“Slaves were we to the insurance commissioner; we, our sons and our son’s sons were enslaved to this Ben Zoma; and even though we are all wise, we are all old and we all know how to ride like bandits, we continued to pay high prices... And the riders of Israel grew weary and moaned under the payments and they cried to the heavens in vain for they continued to ride and they continued to be injured and they continued to pay and they knew great sorrow,” read the notice.
The mobile protest left Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning with a hundred riders on its way north, driving through Afula, Tiberias, Karmiel and Nahariya. The stopped for the night at Dado beach in Haifa, where the riders held a party, inviting the entire public to join.
The protest is expected to rally additional riders as it makes its way across the country. Nissim Binyamin, one of the riders taking part in the protest, said that throughout the first day, nearly 800 people joined the main throng in sections.
The organizers said that aim of the protest was to raise awareness and not anger or frustrate other motorists and therefore the motorcyclists were riding in single file and not blocking the road. But given the already heavy Hol Hamoed traffic, the protest served to snarl the roads further.
On Thursday, the riders will head south passing through Hadera, Netanya, Kfar Saba, Jerusalem and Beersheba. They plan to spend the second night in the Beersheba River National Park, where the “Lighting up the Negev” spring festival is taking place.
On Friday the protest will return to the center via Ashkelon and Ashdod and hold an event where riders will be asked to become members of the Likud, in an effort to force the party currently in power to change the legislation.
“The goal of the ride is to wake up the decision makers and make them realize that it is impossible to tax a student that buys a motorcycle for NIS 2,000 with NIS 6,000 in annual insurance premiums, an amount that equals nearly half of yearly tuition fees,” read another press release issued by the organizers.
“Raising insurance prices is a blow to the weakest segments of society as most riders are young people who cannot manage the new prices. The aim is to reach recognition of the social, environmental and fiscal importance of the matter and bring about reasonable insurance rates.”
Over the last six months the motorcyclists have embarked on a widespread campaign that was covered extensively in the press. Among the campaign’s highlights were: a nude protest ride, a mass demonstration in front of the Knesset and deliberate blocking of traffic on Israel’s main highways.
The protests did no good, however, and in November insurance premiums for two-wheeled motor vehicles rose by an average of 12 percent.
On Friday, meanwhile, a hundred off-road bicycle riders plan to hold a protest ride on a trail between Arad and Masada to demonstrate against what they call the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s “targeted enforcement,” against cyclists in Israel’s nature reserves.
The protest’s organizer, Tal Rivlin, said the INPA inspectors are out to get off-road cyclists, saying that they fine them for riding on marked hiking trails.
“The Nature and Parks Authority behavior pains cyclists who feel hard done by,” said Rivlin. “Their policies are particularly problematic in the Negev region – where there are additional limitations of military training grounds – thus reducing the number of authorized trails.
“The main goal of the protest is the opening a majority of hiking trails to cyclists and treating cyclists differently than drivers of motorized off-road vehicles.”
The INPA spokesman said in response that, “In the last two years we opened 20 new bike routes. Some people don’t understand the meaning of the term nature reservation. The whole idea is to protect the natural habitat of plants and wildlife.
“Some cyclists don’t get it and ride on unauthorized paths causing
damage to the environment. I think this protest is not representative
of the views of general cyclist population, who understand our role and
cooperate with us on the matter.”
The spokesman explained that, especially in the desert, the damage done by bicycles is far greater than that done by hikers.
“The bicycle tracks cause grooves in the sand shifting the flow of
water on the ground. Our rangers have to go out and sweep the trails
after cyclists pass through them,” he said.