Protests began in cities and junctions across Israel on Saturday afternoon for the 16th weekly anti-judicial reform protests all across Israel, with a central rally in Tel Aviv, which is took place on Kaplan Street. About 380,000 protesters took part in the demonstrations across the country, according to the organizers of the protests.
During the protest in Tel Aviv, a number of protesters temporarily blocked the Ayalon highway.
Protesters began demonstrating at the Goma Junction in the North as Rehovot protesters also began gathering early on Saturday evening, seen in the video above.
Protest organizers and Israel Police began preparations for the Kaplan rally on Friday when organizers of the protest called on the public to join them in their demonstration against "the increasing calls in the coalition to enact the laws of the dictatorship, eliminate the values of the Declaration of Independence, the economy and disband the people's army."
The protests have continued despite the temporary halt of the judicial reform legislation Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the end of March.
"The public understands that the sword of the dictatorship is still on its neck, threatening to destroy everything we built," protest organizers stated.
How many protesters showed up in each city?
Protest organizers stated that about 380 thousand protesters came out in the 16th week of demonstrations against the judicial reforms, with 165 thousand in Tel Aviv, 3,500 in Rehovot, two thousand in Holon, 5,500 in Kiryat Ono, 28 thousand in Netanya, seven thousand in Rishon Lezion and 400 in Eilat.
In Herzliya, there are reportedly around 13 thousand protesters at the demonstration in the city. In Haifa, there are at least 30 thousand demonstrators, according to Ynet.
As in the past, the main rally was preceded by a march that will leave Habima square at 6:30 p.m., where singer and actor Oshik Levi will give a talk about the late Yehonatan Geffen and perform his song "Yonatan go home." Geffen passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76.
The protest in Hod HaSharon had about 5 thousand people participating, Ynet reported. There are about two thousand protesting in Ashdod and another two thousand in Beersheba.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid spoke at the demonstration, stating that: "This week, between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, is the week of Israeliness. On Tuesday we will remember that we are the only country in the world where between the saddest day and the happiest day, there are exactly sixty seconds.
"If you hadn't taken to the streets, the disaster would have already happened. Israel would have been no longer democratic.
"One day you will tell this to your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren about how in 2023, you marched through the streets wrapped in a flag and saved the State of Israel. How before Independence Day, you fought for your country, you fought and won."
Speakers at the rally
Among the speakers at Kaplan: former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, Mia Tzirkel, the bereaved sister of late Lieutenant Yonatan Tzirkel, who was killed in Lebanon in 1997, Holocaust survivor Avraham Ruth, director of the hotline and the center for Bedouin women's rights attorney Hanan Elsana, and Ido Galili, a combat officer in the IDF's Givati brigade from the "Brothers in Arms" organization.
Another notable speaker was Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). She spoke against the government’s proposed judicial reform plans in a speech that will be delivered in English at 8 p.m.
On the topic of her upcoming address, Katz said that she is “deeply honored to have been invited to speak at the pro-democracy rally in Tel Aviv this Saturday. It is time for the American Jewish community to get off the sidelines and raise our voices in solidarity with our Israeli siblings who are fighting for the very future of Israel."
In anticipation of heavy traffic congestion in Tel Aviv during the protests, Israel Police asked the public to obey the instructions of police officers stationed at checkpoints and to use alternative routes.
Starting at 4:30 p.m., the following streets in Tel Aviv will be closed to vehicle traffic:
● Kaplan Street from Ibn Gabirol Street to Menachem Begin Street, in both directions.
● Kaplan junction via Menachem Begin street to the north and south, the traffic will be diverted.
● The bridge over HaShalom Street will be closed to the north and south, accessing Highway 20 from there will not be possible.
● Yigal Alon Street to HaShalom Street to the West.
● Yigal Alon Street to Totzeret Israel Street, traffic will be redirected.
● HaShalom Street to Totzeret Israel Street, traffic will be redirected to the East.
● HaShalom Street to Youth Aliyah Street, to the East.
● Yigal Alon Street to HaShalom Street, to the South.
● Yigal Alon Street to Yitzhak Sade Street, to the North.
● Yitzhak Sade street to Hamasger street, to the North.
It will not be possible to exit from Ben Avigdor Street to Hamasger Street.
Regarding the streets branching off Yigal Alon Street, including Aminadav, Kramanitzki, Toval and Yaki Sheeran streets, as well as the exit from the gas station - traffic will be allowed from HaSolelim Street.