Tens of thousands of protesters participated in a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, just two days before the elections.
Demonstrations made their way from the Knesset’s front steps to Balfour Street – adjacent to the Prime Minister’s Residence – to call out Netanyahu for “taking the Knesset hostage” and urged him to step down due to his indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Some 50,000 participated in the protest, according to the Black Flags Movements organizing the demonstration.
The message of the protest was clear: Go vote. Switch the government. Bring about change.
“In three days, he’s gone!” cried out actor Lior Ashkenazi, who is an anti-Netanyahu activist. “The most stubborn protest Israel has ever known, and perhaps even the most justified, overthrew the government and gave us all the opportunity to reelect our leaders. Our future.”
He cried out passionately that it is “impossible to reduce the size of the hour” and that it is “in our hands alone.”
One trying to make their way through the crowd could not do so without bumping shoulders with a protester with a sign held saying “end the corruption” or another person with a megaphone yelling, “Instead of the poor, they give to the rich. What a corrupt government!”
His words rang out from one of the many stages strewn throughout the massive block of demonstrators, with performers from every field taking a stage to make some noise against the alleged corruption of the prime minister.
On another stage, a rock band sang out “Ein Li Eretz Aheret” (I Have No Other Country).
Sparklers shone smokey and pink through the crowd, pink having been made one of the two colors representing the protests, largely due to the Pink Front, a movement for a “pink world” without corruption, lies and racism.
Among the pink were dispersed the flags of the Black Flags Movement, which has been spearheading both the protests in Balfour, as well as the many smaller demonstrations throughout the country and abroad.
The taste of irony is not uncommon among the protesters, who walk around with construction vests saying “corruption-work” and various puns, such as signs reading, “Let it go, Bibi” with a photograph of Elsa from the Disney film Frozen.
Political imagery was common among the thousands upon thousands of people screaming for a change in leadership, with Meretz, Labor and Yesh Atid T-shirts strewn throughout the crowd.
The protests have seen much violence in the past, with attacks on protesters and fights between demonstrators and police occurring almost every week for the past eight months. Already in the afternoon, before the big protests even kicked off, one woman was rushed to the emergency room after being attacked at a junction in Herzliya.
According to the Black Flags Movement, a pro-Netanyahu activist slammed her down after verbally attacking her.
Protesters at Hemed Interchange, too, reported that they had been physically attacked by Netanyahu supporters.
The protests did not just take place at over 1,000 Israeli bridges and junctions; they also made appearances around the world, from Vancouver to Sydney. Even Israelis abroad made their voices heard and demanded change.
The polls show a deadlock ahead of the upcoming elections, so it is unclear if such a change can occur. But the protesters were not deterred and made it clear: “We want change.”