Noam Schalit speaks at mass rally in Tel Aviv

Tens of thousands gather across early for social justice marches; Noam Schalit: We are fighting for his right to live.

August 28, 2011 00:06
4 minute read.
Noam Schalit, Daphni Leef

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 protests. 

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 this country.”

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 recent weeks.

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."

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