Social Justice protesters block Tel Aviv highway

Hundred of protesters march in a day after Silman sets himself on fire; other protests take place in Haifa, J'lem, Beersheba.

July 15, 2012 23:00
3 minute read.
Protesters block streets in Jerusalem

Protesters block streets in Jerusalem 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

A few thousand protesters blocked a portion of the Ayalon Highway in solidarity with Moshe Silman, who set himself on fire in the name of social justice a day before.

Earlier, protesters held a moment of silence when false rumors circulated that Silman had died of wounds he suffered from the self-immolation.

Protesters began banging on an ATM machine but Border Police gathered around it and protected it from further damage.

There were a few scuffles with police who were walking around with camcorders to record any kind of provocation.

While traffic on the Ayalon and on the streets came to a standstill due to the protest, in some parts of the city cafes and restaurants were going about life as normal, a far cry from the popular demonstrations last year.

“It’s going to be a rage demonstration,” said Yael Ben Yefet, an organizer and director at the Democratic Mizrahi Rainbow. “I think people are on the verge of crying, as am I, or want to strike someone or something.”

She added that if violence erupted, it would not be initiated by protesters, but would be a form of “counter-violence.”

“There is violence – by the government. They are the violent ones. And maybe today something will strike back,” she said.

Demonstrators read aloud the suicide note left behind by Silman, who accused the government, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of being directly responsible for his financial predicament. Silman had complained that he received no rent assistance despite being unable to work after having recently suffered a stroke.

Participants at the event included Hadash MK Dov Henin, social protest leader Stav Shafir and other activists affiliated with the movement that began a year and a day ago on Rothschild Boulevard.

Other protests took place simultaneously in Jerusalem, Silman’s hometown of Haifa and in Beersheba.

In Jerusalem, police arrested at least three demonstrators after they tried to block roads at Paris Square. About 80 demonstrators marched from Independence Park to the Prime Minister’s Residence chanting: “We are all Moshe Silman!” The protest started peacefully but once the demonstrators attempted to block the road, clashes broke out between them and police, though there were no injuries.

Demonstrators also tried to block the light rail and screamed “Let’s burn ourselves!” The protest ended at the National Insurance Institute building in downtown Jerusalem.

In Haifa, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside government offices and expressed solidarity with Silman. Some of the protesters said they identified with the man who set himself alight Saturday night, saying that they too had been pushed to the edge by government bureaucracy relating to public housing, Army Radio reported.

A man threatened to set himself on fire at an Orange branch in Petah Tikva on Sunday over an outstanding debt.

The man, a resident of Ariel, doused himself with gasoline and threatened suicide if the company did not waive his debt, estimated at about NIS 20,000.

Police arrested the man, and are considering sending him for a psychological evaluation.

Oded Ne’eman, an Israeli who attends Harvard University and is home on vacation, tried to boil down the social protest movement into a few sentences.

“Basically, there is very little chance for the middle class and down to make a living here,” the 30-year-old PhD student in philosophy said. “[This is about] more just division of goods through more taxation of the privileged, the old traditional way. Even now, tax is not collected properly.

Those with much pay little and get away with huge debts, but those who have nothing cannot pay back their debts. People recognize this and won’t let it go on.”

Melanie Lidman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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