Rally rage: Israelis back on streets demanding change

Discontent in Israel is showing no sign of abating, with fresh mass rallies scheduled for late Saturday. Affordable housing and healthcare are among the demands of protesters calling for change.

Saturday night is due to see mass rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which the organizers hope will be the biggest show of strength so far against the high cost of living in the country. Some 150,000 protesters are expected to gather in Tel Aviv alone.  

A post on the organizers’ website urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “be part of the change,” AP news agency reports.

On Friday, representatives of the protesters gathered to discuss the central themes of the upcoming demonstrations, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports. They decided on a set of key demands to be put forward, which include “fair division of resources,” a welfare state and social justice. Some activists demanded that the protests should voice direct opposition to the current government and the prime minister, the newspaper says.     

The ongoing wave of Israeli rallies grew from a small protest in Tel Aviv in July demanding lower real estate prices. Since then, the movement has progressed to mass campaigns demanding social reforms. According to AP news agency, last Saturday’s nationwide rallies drew crowds of about 150,000.

Despite some parallels, the Israeli rallies are very different from the protest movements in neighboring countries, Daniel Ben-Simon of Israel’s opposition Labor Party told RT.

”I do not think we can get to the scenes which we saw in Egypt, and in Libya and in Tunisia. It will not be violent, there will not be dead [bodies] in the street,” he said. “People here are yelling, are shouting, are sleeping in the streets, but you will not see the police shooting or beating the protesters.”

According to Daniel Ben-Simon, the Israeli rallies are protests by professionals fighting for a better life.

“This is the strike of Israeli professionals, not of unemployed people,” he said. “People are working: physicians, technicians, university professors – you work all week and you cannot make ends meet so, in a way, there is no way you can live properly, even if you are not just unemployed.”

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