'Night of Resistance': Anti-reform protesters disrupt Ayalon highway after Netanyahu speech

Six protestors were arrested during the night for blocking Ayalon highway and one for assaulting a police officer.

 Police officers confront protesters on the Ayalon highway. July 20, 2023 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Police officers confront protesters on the Ayalon highway. July 20, 2023
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

Anti-judicial reform protesters blocked the Ayalon highway on Thursday evening after protest leaders called for supporters to flood protest hotspots in response to a speech in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned protesters, attacked reservists who have threatened to stop volunteering for reserve service, and blamed the opposition for the failure of talks on the judicial reform.

Six people were arrested this Thursday evening on Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on suspicion of violating public order during a demonstration against the judicial reform. Another person was arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers.

The protesters were quickly pushed to the side of the road by police but were still blocking a number of lanes on the highway. The police announced that the protest on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv was illegal and would be removed.

Demonstrators were already present in other locations across the country as part of a "Night of Resistance" which had been planned earlier after the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the reasonableness standard bill for its final readings on Wednesday night. Thursday night was the first time the Ayalon highway was blocked since Ami Eshed was replaced by Peretz Omer as commander of the Tel Aviv police district.

"As usual Netanyahu gives a speech full of lies and incitement," said the Kaplan Force protest movement after the speech. "Whoever advances the dangerous legislation puts the entire State of Israel in danger. Instead of listening to the explicit warnings about the destruction of the army and the economy and the rift in the nation, instead of the integrity of the state, Netanyahu chooses a dictatorship. He prefers to try to turn Israel into a dictatorship. This is the time for the citizens to come out and resist."

The Student Protest movement "Netanyahu does not see the rift that has been created in the nation, does not see the pain, the fear, the cry of at least half of the people. Netanyahu talks about citizens not being subject to the law and citizens above the law, but it's hard not to wonder if all the coup laws are aimed at making one defendant above the law."

Protesters being pushed away with a water cannon along the Ayalon highway. July 20, 2023. (Credit: Gil Levin)

"In the decision between the completion of the coup and the crushing of the people, and the unification of the people and the destruction of the legislation, Netanyahu chose to crush the people. We call on the lovers of the country to take to the streets and not return until the legislation is stopped."

The reservist protest movement stressed that "as we have protected Israel, we will continue to protect democracy."

"Those who expected a responsible and unifying leadership on the eve of Tisha B'Av received Bibi under pressure, diverting, lying and deceiving the public," said the movement. "[US President Joe] Biden, the governor [of the Bank of Israel], [former attorney-general Avichai] Mandelblit, the heads of the defense establishment and the people have all already told you - only a repeal of the dictatorship laws will save Israel because the reasonableness standard bill is a full-blown dictatorship. As we have guarded the State of Israel for decades, so we will continue to guard and protect it as a Jewish and democratic state for generations. The people's army exists only in a democracy."

Protests took place throughout the day Thursday as part of the "Night of Resistance" project.

"Friends - we are at the moment of truth. The next four days are crucial. Each of you can create pressure and stop the move that begins the Polish salami tactic. The first brick in the wall of democracy," said the Restart Israel protest movement on Thursday ahead of the "Night of Resistance."

"Each and every person can create pressure, each and every one according to their abilities - whether by way of the feet by appearing at the demonstrations tonight on the night of the resistance, by marching to Jerusalem, by writing an article, by placing pressure on the employers to announce that they are on strike (starting Sunday) or by any other activity of resistance," added Restart Israel. "The only request is - do it. fight In the end, we will win."

The protest actions included convoys disrupting traffic on central roads throughout the country and protests at junctions and squares in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Rosh Pina, Rehovot, Haifa, Hadera, and the Negev, along with a number of other locations.

In Jerusalem, protesters marched around the walls of the Old City.

Roads were blocked in a number of locations, including Highway 2, Highway 4, Highway 75, the road near Sefer Square in Haifa, and Paris Square in Jerusalem, among other locations. One protester was arrested in Haifa on suspicion of disturbing the peace after blocking a road with her car.

Protest marches also took place in Jerusalem, Ra'anana, and Tel Aviv, with additional demonstrations at Gome junction, central Ra'anana junction, Rishonim junction, in front of the home of Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Arnon Bar-David in Kiryat Ono, the Teachers' Center in Beersheba.

Protesters march near Tzahal Square in Jerusalem. July 20, 2023 (Credit: Yuval Pan)

Hundreds join protest march headed to Jerusalem

Hundreds of protesters have joined the procession to Jerusalem, which is expected to arrive in Jerusalem on Saturday night ahead of the second and third readings of the reasonableness standard bill.

On Thursday, about 15 buses full of hi-tech workers were set to join the march near Latrun.

On Friday, hundreds of members of the "Building an Alternative" movement will join the march as well.

Moran Zer Katzenstein, founder of the Building an Alternative movement, stated "Our situation is not good at all. It started with the exclusion of women from conferences on gender segregation, continued with the dissolution of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, and this week we found out that the head of the new committee that will oversee women will be none other than Simcha Rothman, and this is without mentioning the bill to expand the powers of the rabbinical courts that passed this week, and will destroy the lives of so many women who will be at the mercy of dark rabbis."

"We warned of this six months ago, and today these nightmares are coming true before our eyes. Tomorrow at 6 a.m., in Latrun, we will join the thousands who are coming up to push forward on the road to Jerusalem. This is our hour to prevent the driving of the last nail in the coffin of democracy in the State of Israel and the complete destruction of the status of women in Israel. For women, for minorities, for the elderly, for equal rights for all citizens of the State of Israel - join us in pushing forward on the road to Jerusalem."

Protests in Haifa and Herzliya

A number of demonstrations also took place on Thursday morning in locations across the country.

Israelis in Haifa staged a demonstration outside the city's governmental complex on Thursday morning, causing several streets to be closed to traffic, according to police. 

A group of demonstrators also gathered around the Communications Ministry in Jerusalem to protest Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi's desired reforms to news media.

The Brothers in Arms and hi-tech protest movements demonstrated outside the building of the administration of Bank Hapoalim on Thursday morning and called for the bank to stand against the judicial reform.

"You use our money to generate extensive profitable activity, but we have a contract that is based on shared values and above all on a stable and reasonable system of laws that protects us savers," said the protest movements. "We call on the banks' managements to declare by Monday that if the law to abolish the reason for reasonableness is passed, they will shut down the financial system. You want our money? Join the protest. There is no thriving economy in a dictatorship!"

Three protesters were arrested on Thursday morning after replacing a thousand street signs with signs reading "Democracy Road" in Herzliya. The three were later released.

The Kaplan Force protest movement announced on Thursday morning that a large protest will take place on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv on Saturday night ahead of the vote on the reasonableness standard bill. Additional protests are planned for about 150 locations across Israel on Saturday night.

"What we saw this morning in the Constitution Committee is preparation for the tearing apart of the people," said the Kaplan Force. "If the legislation is passed in the next two days, the State of Israel will begin its collapse into destruction. There is still time to stop the destruction of the state, the people's army, and the Israeli economy. We call on all the democratic forces in Israel to protest this coming Saturday against the destruction of the house."