Israelis gather en masse to protest against judicial reform

Protestors blocked the homes of coalition members on Monday morning in an attempt to stop them from getting to the Knesset.

 Protestors demonstrate against the judicial reform in Tel aviv, Monday, February 20. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Protestors demonstrate against the judicial reform in Tel aviv, Monday, February 20.

Israelis of all ages across the country marched on Monday in protest of the judicial reform which was set to go up for its first vote in Knesset later in the day. The protestors blocked major highways and interchanges across the country including the road by Ben-Gurion Airport, Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv and other locations.

Major protests were planned by organizations across various sectors of Israeli life including IDF reservists, school kids, healthcare professionals and more.

Many parents did not send their kids to school but joined the march at 8 a.m. in a protest organized by the No Education Without Democracy movement.

"We are fighting so that the education system in Israel will stay a liberal education system, the kind that advances equality, social justice, moral norms and pluralism," said the movement in a statement on Monday. "Harming the independence of the justice system will bring to harming the education system and the values it teaches."

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir criticized the police for letting protestors block the roads and intersections and said he would hold an urgent meeting to ensure that they were acting according to his policies.

 Protestors block the entrance of Pnei Kedem where MK Simcha Rothman lives. (credit: BROTHERS IN ARMS) Protestors block the entrance of Pnei Kedem where MK Simcha Rothman lives. (credit: BROTHERS IN ARMS)

"Freedom of speech - yes, anarchy - no. We have to maintain the flow of life and not allow anarchists to paralyze the country."

Protestors block MKs' houses

Earlier in the morning, protestors gathered outside the homes of various coalition MKs and tried to stop them from getting to the Knesset in an attempt to prevent the vote.

IDF reservists from the Brothers in Arms organization gathered outside of Legislation Committee Chairman MK Simcha Rothman's home in Pnei Kedem and blocked his access to his car in on Monday morning. They also blocked the entrance to the settlement.

Other protestors demonstrated outside the home of Likud MK Tally Gotliv in Givat Shmuel and taped themselves to her building. Israel Police arrested two of the protestors who were blocking the door to Gotliv's apartment. A video from Gotliv's building showed her telling protestors that she needed to take her daughter, who is autistic, to school, but the protestors tell her to find someone else to do it because she isn't leaving the house.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid condemned the protestors' behavior.

"I strongly condemn the siege on the home of MK Tally Gotliv, a mother of a girl with special needs, and the fact that they didn't allow her to take her daughter to school," he said. "This isn't our way. This is not the way of the protest. I send Tally strength and a hug for her daughter."

Another point of the protest was in Ashkelon, where demonstrators gathered outside the home of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter.

Another six protestors were arrested as a small group gathered outside Education Minister Yoav Kisch's home in Ramat Gan and glued themselves down in the hallway.

"When protestors prevent public representatives from going to the Knesset to vote and make an autistic girl miserable, that isn't a legitimate protest," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The protestors talk about democracy, but they are putting an end to democracy when they prevent public representatives from their basic democratic right - to vote. I call to the police to act immediately to enable the MKs to get to the Knesset."

"As a former protestor, I identify with protestors, especially those who came to the hole in which I live, but blocking the way of MKs is not a democratic move but an anti-democratic move," said Rothman. "Physical blocking with the goal of preventing a parliamentary vote is the move of regimes and undemocratic behavior."

The protests outside all four MKs' homes were dispersed, and all four made it to the Knesset.

Protest at the Knesset

Tens of thousands of protestors are expected to assemble at the Knesset at 2 p.m. where there will be speeches followed by a march around the building.

The people who are set to speak at the Knesset demonstration are former Likud justice minister Dan Meridor, Chairwoman of the LGBTQ+ Association Hila Pe'er, former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, IDC's Deputy Dean of the Law Faculty Prof. Yaniv Rosani, Hod Hasharon Mayor Amir Kohavi and the first IDF female captain Ora Peled Nakash.

Physical and mental healthcare professionals will stage a mass casualty incident outside the Knesset in which they will pretend to give medical attention to cardboard cutouts that represent the Declaration of Independence, The basic human right to dignity and freedom, the Invalids' Rights Law, the law for treating mental health patients, the national medical insurance law and the people's health order.

"The men and women in healthcare and mental healthcare in Israel are preparing for a national emergency on Monday," said the Doctor's Struggle - the White Coats and the No Mental Health without Democracy movements in a joint statement. "By virtue of our role, we will arrive to supply first aid so as to treat those who are injured by the Knesset's vote. We are all recruited to do everything to prevent the collapse of Israel's public health."

The trains are expected to be packed

The trains are expected to be packed on Monday, similar to how they were last week when long queues snaked out of the train stations as people waited to board trains to Jerusalem.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who refused to reinforce the trains to free up some congestion last week, will once again leave train schedules to operate as usual.