Noam Schalit, DaphnI leef social justice_311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Noam Schalit spoke Saturday night to thousands of Israelis taking part in the social justice protest in Tel Aviv. Tens of thousands of people engaged in several protests held across
Israel Saturday night, in a resumption of the mass social issues
Saturday's protests came a week after a candlelight vigil was held in
Tel Aviv instead of mass demonstrations, following the killing of eight
Israelis in a combined terror attack the previous that Thursday. In
addition to Tel Aviv, protests were also held in Jerusalem, Rishon
Letzion, Bikat Ono, Katzrin, Jaffa, Harish, and Tiberias. According to
what organizers said were figures from the police department, more than
20,000 protesters took part in the Tel Aviv demonstration.
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Saturday evening's rally was highlighted by remarks from Noam Schalit,
father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit held by Hamas in Gaza since
June 2006. The speech marked Shalit's first public collaboration with
the tent city movement, and was called to show not only solidarity
between the movement to free his son and the social issues movement, but
also ahead of Shalit's 25th birthday on Sunday
Upon announcement this week that he would take part in the rally, Schalit
said "Gilad Schalit back at home is the first way to show the return of
correct national priorities to the Israeli society."
On Saturday, Schalit was introduced to thunderous applause shortly after
the speeches began. He told the crowd “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 our leaders come together and pay the price needed in order to
bring Gilad home.”
Schalit added “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 inherit
in a deal for his release, is not fit to lead us and is not fit to lead
The rally began with a speech from National Union of Israeli Students
head Itzik Shmuli, who said "good evening citizens of Israel, good
evening to everyone who is still demanding from the government not only
national security but also social security, that 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."
Addressing the government, he said "you tell us that the 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 are threatening our existence."
“Mr. Prime Minster, we are demanding solutions. The cost of living hurts all of us – give us a way to live in this country!"
He also said that the movement would continue holding protests “as
though there is no dialogue with the government, and will hold dialogue
with the government as if there are no protests.”
Tzipi Maimon, a public school teacher from the Gaza envelope, told the
crowd that with the beginning of the school year approaching "next to
the worry about the protection [from rockets] that we don't have or is
insufficient for our schools, which is itself a result of neglect of
civil demands I ask myself if once again the discussion over security
issues will overtake the social discussion that has taken place here in
She added "it's not fitting to invest more and more in defense from
outside threats, while indoors everything is falling apart…..Residents
of the Negev are saying its 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."
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 was completely ignored by the government, we call on
the Prime Minister to reach out, and return to operation the only
committee which was selected by the people – the Knesset, and to take
personal responsibility as the only chairman selected by the people."
Leef added, in a somewhat ominous tone, that if Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu ignores this demand "the protest will enter its next step – a
civil show of force the likes of which has never been seen in Israel."