Israel's middle class staged a massive show of strength last night when 405,000 protesters rallied in city streets throughout the country. There were an estimated 292,000 protesters at the largest rally in Tel Aviv, according to figures provided by Trendit to Channel 2 News. The demonstrators marched from Habimah Square at the northern end of Rothschild Boulevard to Kikar Hamedinah, where a major rally was held to protest the high cost of living and demand affordable housing and social justice.
At the same time, there were large rallies in Israel's other major cities. 50,000 demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem, and 35,000 in Haifa as well as protests in Kiryat Shmona, Carmiel, Nahariya, Afula, Ness Ziona, Arad and other towns. There were no protests in Beersheva and Ashkelon because of security concerns. This was the eighth consecutive Saturday night of major social protests, and the largest so far.
According to figures provided by Trendit, 62% of the demonstrators in Tel Aviv were from the bottom 40% of the population in terms of income, while 18% of the protesters were from the top 10% of income earners.
Protest leader Dafni Leef said, "The struggle has not yet fulfilled its aims but rather has moved up into a new phase. I'm as poor as ever but as happy as I have ever been."
At the end of the protest she said, "The summer of 2011 is the summer of hope. This hope was borne from the social gaps that have become impossible to bridge. Israeli society which has come here this evening, as well as those who stayed home have reached a red line and has said enough, no more. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of them all of the time. This summer we woke up and opened our eyes.
Protest leader Stav Sapir said, "This struggle will go on beyond the summer. We will continue to struggle while the government ignores us. The government is playing for time and waiting for the protests to tire, and is expecting that the events in September will cause the protest to fade. But we haven't yet brought to bear all the pressure on the government that we can. We have creative ways to continue to protest such as these Saturdays."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 4, 2011
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