Last night I attended what is expected to be the last of the recent Israeli protests for social justice. In case you’re not familiar with these events, they began as a response to high rent prices - symbolized in the staging of a tent city on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv - and since have expanded to encompass a range of complaints regarding welfare and the cost of living.
From the NYT:
The test facing the social protest movement goes to the core of an Israeli problem: whether the national agenda can ever be shaped by issues other than the country’s security threats and related dictates of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
…the wave of protest, which began over the lack of affordable housing, grew to encompass every aspect of an Israeli society battered by rising costs, with a struggling middle class and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. The protest managed to unite a normally fractious public, momentarily creating common cause among the left and the right, religious and secular Israelis, Ashkenazim of European origin and Sephardic Jews from Middle Eastern backgrounds, and the country’s Arabs and Jews.
The debate had turned to the need to reduce the country’s formidable defense budget, with economists and security experts explaining how it could be done.
“At last,” Stav Shaffir, one of the protest leaders, said in an interview shortly before the attack. Israelis had been made to feel that they should not complain about material things, she said, because “the perception is always that something can happen tomorrow and we will all be dead.”
Although last night’s protest did not reach the one-million mark initially promised by its organizers (estimates hover at 400,000), the streets were certainly buzzing as Shabbat came to an end. In Kikar Hamedina, where the Tel Aviv protest was staged, the crowds danced as they chanted, among other slogans, “ha’am doresh tzedek chevrati” (the people demand social justice). I showed up early to take some pictures and unfortunately my camera died a few hours later, just as the crowds were getting thick; the pictures below are from earlier in the evening. (Audio and video to come.)