Tens of thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night to voice anger and pain. Those who came to the mass protest spoke from deep personal experience and were also the voice for many thousands more who identify with their needs and are going through similar experiences. The majority of protesters were not there for political reasons; they were there for economic reasons.The Israeli Employment Service reported on July 9 that the unemployment rate stood at around 21% – a huge jump from the 3% before the pandemic struck. The economic repercussions of the handling of the coronavirus have been devastating worldwide.In Israel, the situation has worsened rather than improved. Despite the promises by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to provide an “economic corona kit,” many of the protesters said they had not received compensation for business lost during the first lockdown and the halt in the tourism industry, and now there has been a second wave of closures.In many cases – such as bars, gyms, theaters and other leisure and cultural activities – the blow has been a double one. When businesses reopened after months of no income, owners spent large sums of money to make the premises compliant with stringent coronavirus prevention regulations. Before they could begin to recoup that added expense, they were closed again.Similarly, the plight of the self-employed is not new. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, there was a movement of self-employed in Israel who protested that although they had contributed mandatory National Insurance Institute payments every month like other citizens, they were not covered for basic social welfare needs, such as during sickness, the week of sitting shiva following a bereavement, or unemployment if the business failed and had to close.Last Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz unveiled an NIS 80 billion national rescue plan aimed at helping the one million unemployed citizens and ensuring that the middle and poorer classes will not collapse under the current financial hardships.Under the plan, some 380,000 self-employed and business owners who cannot work will be given a NIS 7,500 grant, without them having to apply for it. The payments will be made in installments at least through June 2021, and businesses that can prove they have lost as much as 40% of their revenue will also receive support commensurate to their losses.In a welcome step, the prime minister also promised to provide vocational training to unemployed workers with the aim of equipping them with new skills that could make them more readily employable in the future.But like all other aid packages, the proof will be in the delivery.There is, incidentally, a certain irony in forcibly closing businesses such as gyms and wedding halls to prevent people from gathering and spreading the disease – even though these places can easily track who comes and at what time – and yet allowing a gathering of thousands of strangers. It is perhaps a sign that there could be more creative thinking about how to stop the spread of coronavirus without causing the complete collapse of people’s livelihoods in the first place.The demonstration was held as a genuine plea for help by people who are financially suffering, who have lost their income and see no hope on the horizon. People who postponed mortgage payments, took out loans or dug into savings to tide them over the initial period without income are reaching the point when savings are running out and the loans need to be paid back. And the measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 are affecting extended families so that parents are less able to help adult children, and siblings cannot extend a helping hand and a loan.The bloated unity government was ostensibly formed precisely to deal with the health and economic crisis, but it has repeatedly demonstrated a serious disconnect from what ordinary people are suffering. The demonstrators don’t need to hear a message of support from government ministers, they need help on the ground – real help, and fast.