Student Protest 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Twenty students were injured in confrontations with police and 12 detained for questioning after a demonstration against the kollel stipend bill took a violent turn on Wednesday night and hundreds of students attempted to block central traffic arteries in Tel Aviv.
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Hundreds of students from across the country gathered outside the Tel Aviv Museum night to voice their dissatisfaction with the recent proposed amendment to the State Budget to enable the unique funding of kollel students, under the slogan of “we are not anti-haredi, we just want equality.” The organizers of the protest, the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS), ensured that no politicians were present and the main speakers were well known musicians, journalists and a haredi man who emphasized the need for unity in the struggle. He urged that the state acknowledge the meaning of learning Torah as part of our history, but invest equally in all its students. Sections of the crowd booed parts of his speech, while others cheered him on.
NUIS spokesperson Eyal Basson told The Jerusalem Post that the student union would continue to speak out publically all around the country. He emphasized that this is not a campaign directed at the Haredi’s, but rather at their leaders, the Shas party. “We are going to continue to work in the public and the parliamentary arena and will not stop until we get our message heard.”
The NUIS was hoping for a large outcome for Wednesday's protest, similar to the nearly ten thousand students who protested in Jerusalem against the same bill over two weeks ago.
Basson, who estimated the number of protesters between 1,500 and 2,000, maintained he was not disappointed by the meager outcome, and rejected the notion that the students might be less convinced that demonstrations were not the best way to achieve their goals of promoting egalitarianism. “Jerusalem is a city of protests, and lots of local movements took part in that demonstration,” he said. “Tel Aviv is a non-protesting city.”
Another student travelled all the way from Tel Chai to attend the
protest because he feels that as the future of the country, students
have the power to enact change. “The government should stand for the
rights of the youth and invest money in them. Their bills are not
working on us,” Lony Nathanson said.
After the speeches, during
singer Yirmi Kaplan's concert, the students took to the Shaul Hamelech
street in an attempt to reach nearby Rehov Even Gvirol, one of the
city's main streets. Mounted policemen blocked the protesters chanting
“Bibi wake up, the students are worth more!” But rowdy students soon
broke the police line and began running towards the main junction with
Da Vinci Street to stop traffic.
A fist fight ensued between
police and some protestors and traffic soon had to be diverted off the
main road as the students gained momentum becoming louder and more
aggressive. Police struggled to control the crowd and eventually
resorted to pepper spray in a bid to disperse the masses.
spokesperson later claimed that 12 students had been arrested and 20
injured, some of whom were hospitalized including Student Union Head
Earlier on Wednesday, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo
Amar met with students at the Bar Ilan University to discuss the bill,
and promote dialogue between the different sectors of Israeli society.
law should be egalitarian, for the benefit of everyone. It is not only
for the good of the university students but also of the kollel students,
that the latter shouldn't have a special law. I was promised that the
law would address everyone's needs.”
Amar repeated his praise of
the student leadership, who “are responsible and seek their well-being
without hurting others and spreading hatred.” The rabbi reiterated the
need to seek unity, and avoid inner-fighting in a diverse Jewish nation,
composed of different diasporas and opinions. “The unifying factor, the
Jewish heritage, is stronger than all the differences setting us
This is the second meeting in recent weeks between Amar
and students in an attempt to lower the flames around United Torah
Judaism MK Moshe Gafni's amendment to the Economic Arrangements Bill, to
include stipends for kollel students, after a High Court ruling in June
ruled that it was discriminatory to pay special stipends to full-time
yeshiva students and not to university students, as was the wont since
Gafni himself has also been busy in proving that he in no
way seeks to prefer the haredi sector he represents over the students.
The haredi lawmaker attended a confrontation on his proposal at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem last week, explaining to an auditorium
full of students why and how the state should continue to support its
Torah scholars, stressing that only a small number of those living in
poverty actually receive this specific allowance.
the Economic Committee he heads separated a proposed tax on students’
scholarships from the rest of the budget, a move that could stall or
prevent the tax's implementation, a clear gesture in favor of the