Tel Aviv business owners burn goods in protest of coronavirus policies

"We have nothing to lose anymore so we go to war for our lives and the lives of our families."

Business owners protest against the nationwide closure in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2020 (photo credit: FLASH90)
Business owners protest against the nationwide closure in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2020
(photo credit: FLASH90)
Hundreds of small business owners from Tel Aviv’s Eilat Street protested against the government’s COVID-19 lockdown policy that is keeping their doors closed and torched fabrics they are unable to sell.
“The fashion business is a hard one,” said Benny, head of Tulip Italy fashion shoes online sales to The Jerusalem Post. “We need to buy stock half a year in advance and we supply it to small businesses across the country ahead of each [fashion] season.” Due to the lockdown policy, shoe and fashion stores can’t open and must rely on online sales. Unable to sell their merchandise, fabric and shoe importers must pay for pre-ordered materials which are now coming in, store materials nobody is asking for, and chase stores they work with for a return on pre-sold goods.
“This is a rolling business,” said David, who owns a fabric storage warehouse. “I burned fabrics, we are at the bottom of the food-chain and we suffered the worst. People bought from us, and now they’re not paying because they can’t sell anything so we’re in debt. We are bleeding losses to the tune of millions of shekels.”
“Look at the stores in our street – they’re all closed,” Benny said, pointing to the fashion store facing his own business. “They came for a few hours and went home. Today we stood up and screamed the fury of business owners. What are we going to do with the stock?”
Asaf Ben Ami, owner of Tulip Italy, told the Post that online sales can’t answer everything.
“Goggle and Facebook request thousands of shekels to place an ad. It’s not like the user “sees” us just like that.” Both men took part in the protest and say the policemen were understanding regarding the plight of the demonstrators.
“I didn’t even hear them shouting,” said a worker at Tamir Gomitech who declined to offer her name. “Had I known I would have joined them. Twenty people closed down [stores] on this one street.”
“This is not the time to make waves and protest,” the cab driver who took me to Eilat Street informed me. “All over the world people want to replace the leaders. In Russia they want to replace [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, in the US they want to replace [US President Donald] Trump. Here they protest against [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.
“I think all such protests are directed from above by people who want to take over themselves. I don’t think anyone better than Netanyahu will come along.”
The man said he suffered due to the COVID-19 economic crisis and is now in heavy debts.
“I had a minibus and used to drive tourists around. That’s gone – sold it at 25% less than it was worth,” he explained. “Yesterday I spent two hours before getting even one ride, for which I earned NIS 40. Whatever I get in aid it just isn’t enough.”
He went on to name the benefits he has received. “This week I got NIS 15,000, in July NIS 10,000 and in September NIS 7,000 – it all goes to cover the minus.”
“We got nothing from the state,” Benny said, “in the US they help business, and quickly, without all these forms and waiting periods we have. We are very angry with the current government.”
When I share with him what the driver said, he said “so the people who want to replace Netanyahu released the novel coronavirus just to do that? Does that make any sense to you?
“This whole thing should be done differently,” Benny said. “Those who are elderly and at risk should be protected; Red Cities [with high infection rates] should be locked down. Let small business open and work as you and I are talking now, with masks and keeping social distance.
“Those in power need to wake up now and understand we can’t just stop our lives,” he said. “We are filled with pain, all of us.”
“You can buy food in a store – why not a shirt?” David said. “They made us into invisible people; we won’t survive if this goes on.”