Mass social protests resume across the country

Tens of thousands gather across Israel for social justice marches; Noam Schalit: We are fighting for Gilad's right to live.

Noam Schalit, DaphnI leef social justice_311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Noam Schalit, DaphnI leef social justice_311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tens of thousands of Israelis took part in several protests on Saturday night, as the social issues movement resumed in force.
Rallies were held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Bikat Ono, Katzrin, Jaffa, Harish and Tiberias. Organizers, citing what they said were police figures, said more than 20,000 people took part in the Tel Aviv event on Ibn Gvirol Street.
Protest leaders want gov't regulation of rent, tax policy
Alternative tent protests cast doubt on 'social leaders'
That rally was highlighted by remarks from Noam Schalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006.
The speech marked Schalit’s first public collaboration with the tent-city movement, and was called to show solidarity between the movement to free his son and the social issues movement, and ahead of Gilad’s 25th birthday on Sunday.
“Gilad Schalit back at home is the first way to show the return of correct national priorities to Israeli society,” Noam Schalit said last week when announcing he would take part in the rally. On Saturday night, Schalit was introduced to thunderous applause shortly after the speeches began.
“Social justice isn’t only the right to have a home in Israel, but also the basic right to live. We are fighting for the life of our son Gilad, an IDF soldier who was captured while carrying out his duties, following a series of failures...We are demanding that our leaders come together and pay the price needed to bring Gilad home,” Noam Schalit said.
“For over five years, each day that passes Gilad dies anew.Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is up to you to find the courage to bring Gilad home. You don’t leave an IDF solider behind.
Are our leaders going to privatize these values also? We are here to tell the prime minister and our decision-makers that a leader who is capable of abandoning an IDF soldier for years, and incapable of dealing with the dangers inherent in a deal for his release, is not fit to lead us and is not fit to lead this country,” he said.
The rally began with a speech from Itzik Shmuli, head of the National Union of Israeli Students.

“Good evening, citizens of Israel, good evening to everyone who is still demanding from the government not only national security but also social security, who is still demanding defense from rockets while on the way to the market, and defense from the prices on the shelves they find when they get to the market,” Shmuli said.
Addressing the government, he said, “You tell us that unemployment has gone down, but we see more and more impoverished workers.
You tell us how much Israel is a shining country, and we just see more and more people rifling through trash cans. You tell us how strong Israel is, and we see social gaps that threaten our existence."
“Mr. Prime Minister, we demand solutions. The cost of living hurts all of us – give us a way to live in this country!” Shmuli said.
The movement would continue to hold protests “as though there is no dialogue with the government, and will hold dialogue with the government as if there are no protests,” he said.
Tzipi Maimon, a public school teacher from a community near the Gaza Strip, told the crowd that with the start of the school year approaching, “besides worrying that we are not protected [from rockets], or that our schools are unprotected, which is itself a result of the neglect of civil demands, I ask myself if once again the discussion over security issues will overtake the discussion of social issues that has taken place here in recent weeks."
“It’s not appropriate to invest more and more in defense against external threats, while domestically everything is falling apart.... Residents of the Negev are saying it’s not enough for us to be protected physically, we also need investment in education, health and welfare, this is what will make us a stronger society,” Maimon said.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, Daphni Leef, the 26-year-old Tel Avivian who launched the movement with a Facebook event in mid-July, said, “After the call of the masses has been completely ignored by the government, we call on the prime minister to reach out, and for the only committee that was chosen by the people – the Knesset – to convene and to take personal responsibility as the governing body selected by the people.”
Leef added, in somewhat ominous tones, that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ignores this demand, “the protest will enter its next step – a show of civil force the likes of which has never been seen in Israel.”

Click for full JPost coverage