J'lem: Thousands of activists march to PM's residence

Over 25,000 protest against high housing costs; downtown area closed; organizer: "We wanted to show Netanyahu his behavior is unacceptable."

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 6, 2011 22:29
2 minute read.
Prostesters in Jerusalem's Kikar Zion.

Protesters in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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More than 25,000 people marched in Jerusalem in a mass of humanity that stretched from Gan Hasus (Horse Park), the epicenter of the tent city, down Ben Yehuda, across Independence Park, and into Paris Square in front of the Prime Ministers residence.

"It feels like more than last week," said Rivka, one of the activists who organized the march, referring to the Saturday night protests that drew upwards of 150,000 demonstrators in marches across the country.

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"We worked hard on this all week, we really wanted to show Netanyahu that his behavior is unacceptable," she said. She added that organizers were worried the turn out would not be as strong as last week and spent the past two days blanketing the city with flyers, including a special effort to reach out to the religious community and hand out flyers at synagogue.

The downtown area was effectively shut down as crowds of people surged towards the city center from all directions. A Christian youth group from South Korea singing spirituals, a small chorus of soprano saxophones, and a dozen or so mimes joined students, parents, toddlers, and grandparents.

"The students were the trigger but the problem is general and affects every sector of the society," said Hagit Hovav, the chairwoman of the Israeli Center for Social Justice, as she made her way to the protest. "It started with the apartments, but all kinds of social problems bubbled up from the ground."

Speakers and performers in front of the Prime Minister's residence included the author Saed Kashua, Etniks, Mosh Ben Ari, Jerusalem City Councilwoman Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim), and representatives from the various groups protesting, including students and leaders from the public housing protest.

"I live in the dorms, so I'm not dealing with this problem right now but I'm looking ahead, and I don't know if there will be another protest as big as this in the next five years," said first-year medical student Yonatan Guberman, "It says something good about the country, we're lucky we are waking up. Things can stay the same way for years... who knows if things will actually change now, but at least there's the opportunity."

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