30,000 turn out for first social protests in 2 months

Protest leaders hoping to recapture the spirit of summer protests gather across the country; rocket fire cancels protest in Beersheba.

Social protest rally in Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Social protest rally in Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Around 30,000 thousand protesters turned out in Tel Aviv as the social justice movement staged its first protests in nearly two months Saturday evening.
Protest leaders hoped to recapture the spirit of summer rallies - the largest in Israel's history - and demonstrate the continued relevance of the movement. The “March of the Million” on September 3 brought 300,000 people to rally in north Tel Aviv’s Hamedina Square.
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Yet a barrage of rocket fire in the South of the country interfered with some of the protests. Police spokesman Doron Ben Amo said Saturday that members of the public who are gathering around rocket impact zones are risking their lives, and organizers canceled a branch of the protest in Beersheba.
Over 3,000 people gathered in Jerusalem outside the Knesset.
Protests were also held in Kiryat Shmona, Modi’in, Eilat and Hod Hasharon.
In Tel Aviv, activists gathered at Habima and marched to Rabin Square, where the legendary ’90s sketch comedy troupe Hahamishia Hakamerit were scheduled to perform, agreeing to reunite to perform a skit written by author Etgar Keret.
Held under the slogan “Back to the Streets,” the renewed protests were a response to the government's perceived inaction to the social movement's demands. The protest "demanded from the Knesset parliamentarians and the government to cancel the 2012 budget and launch a new social budget through cooperation with the public,” a message advertising the rallies on j14.org.il, a website associated with the movement, said.
With the launch of the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change and the dismantling of the tent cities last month, the movement had largely dropped off the radar, being further obscured by national events such as the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit two weeks ago.
Several hours before the rally began, the Prime Minister's Office announced that the government will pass tax recommendations from the Trajtenberg report in a special meeting in Sefad on Sunday.
The tax measures include the cancellation of NIS 2.5 billion of energy taxes, which will reduce the price of gasoline, diesel, and coal, a NIS 5000 annual tax credit for parents of children up to the age of three and a 2% "wealth tax" increase on income over NIS 1 million.
Furthermore, import duties on products not produced in Israel will be canceled, making them more affordable to consumers, while the corporate tax rate will rise to 25%.
Taxes on capital gains, such as stocks and dividends, will rise by 5% as well.
Once approved, the changes will have to pass the Knesset before going into effect on January 1, 2012. The income and corporate tax changes will be reevaluated in 2014.
The next big event for the social protest movement will be on Tuesday, when thousands are expected to take part in a “People’s Strike” across the country. Organizers say they expect the day to be one of grassroot, spontaneous protests and demonstrations, as well as free-flowing, egalitarian discussion groups.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.