Social justice protesters march in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem

Over 5,000 take part in rally in Tel Aviv to mark year since first tents pitched on Rothschild Boulevard; 150 join alternative protest along promenade; 500 march toward PM's J'lem residence.

Social justice protesters in Habima Square 370 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Social justice protesters in Habima Square 370
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Over 5,000 people marched through the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday evening to mark one year since protest leader Dafni Leef set up her tent on Rothschild Boulevard, kicking off last summer's social justice protest movement.
Marching from Habima Square to the government offices on Kaplan Street, protesters filled the streets with the same chants as the year before. Like last summer, most chants centered on demands of social justice and the return of a welfare state.
Signs and chants called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to resign, calling the government corrupt. But save for a few signs from Meretz and communist parties, protesters made it clear that they were not entirely welcoming even of socially left-leaning politicians.
Protesters march down Kaplan Street (Michael Omer-Man)Protesters march down Kaplan Street (Michael Omer-Man)
"Bibi, Shelly, it's the same revolution," demonstrators chanted, referring to Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich.
Though the demonstration lacked the large stages and organized speeches of earlier protests, speakers' corners popped up along Kaplan Street as the march came to an end.
While some protesters preached about equality not only in military service but also in human rights and gender and sexual-orientation, others appeared to have a more personal message.
Telling a thin crowd how he received a parking ticket that morning while visiting the beach, one soap-box speaker who did not want to identify himself called on his audience to "go out and steal back [from the state]" the next morning.
Meanwhile, about 150 protesters bearing signs calling for social justice and more government spending in the periphery marched down the emptied Tel Aviv promenade from north to south on Saturday night.
Organizers of the gathering, which aimed to be an alternative to the larger demonstration that was taking place at the same time at Rabin Square, said they set up a separate protest because they believed the other event had become politicized.
"The social justice movement has succeeded in gaining the attention of the public, but some conflicts within the leadership of the movement occurred which is why we are here," said Rahum Herzl, of Nahariya, who was one of the organizers. "Right now, for instance, there is a protest in Haifa organized by Hadash," a Jewish-Arab socialist party.
Rahum accused Daphni Leef and other icons of the social protests of having a concealed political agenda.
"They are dependent on political parties and sponsors and we are not," he said while directing the marchers down the promenade..
Bored policemen lined the cordoned streets waiting for the small group of marchers to pass on their way to Jaffa.
In Jerusalem, some 500 people marched from Menora Park towards the prime minister's residence.
Some demonstrators expresses disappointment that for the year anniversary since the beginning of the protest there was such a low turnout
"It's really sad but it's exam period and people are exhausted," said Roni Parparoni, a history major at Hebrew University. "They think there are enough stronger people that will yell about their rights," she added.
The protesters marched on the sidewalk of King George Street because police did not give them a permit to block the street.
"I am scared I am living in a state that is becoming more fascist," said Anat Yatziv, a medical school student. "Last year we could be on the roads. In a democratic state how can you not give a permit for a demonstrations.
Protests also take place in Haifa and Beersheba.
Daphne Leef and other social protest activists demonstrated in Bnei Brak on Thursday night and called on the Haredi public to join the protest against the cost of living.
"Haredim and secular people refuse to be enemies," the social justice protesters chanted.
Melanie Lidman and Gil Shefler contributed to this report.