Photo Credit: Adi Arad
Participants in Israel's COVID Freedom Convoy take off from Eilat. Feb. 14, 2022

Despite nearly blackout by much of the Israeli press, as many as 20,000 vehicles participated in a “Freedom Convoy” to Jerusalem on Monday, culminating with large protests outside Israel’s parliament and Supreme Court.

Vehicles set off on Monday morning from forty cities across Israel, calling on the government to lift the state of emergency declared due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the event’s organizers.

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The convoy, which included trucks, tractors, cars and motorcycles, travelled across Israel’s main highways with supporters lining bridges and large traffic junctions throughout the day. The convoy caused major traffic delays across much of the country.

The convoy, inspired by similar protests in Canada and other countries around the world was organized around a central message: “Take back the wheel”—meaning undoing the state of emergency and repealing the so-called “major corona law” granting the government special powers to deal with the spread of the virus, organizers said in a statement.

The project, was organized by laypeople and funded via a crowdfunding campaign.

The convoy follows months of protests against government imposed restrictions and surveillance measures, which have not been covered by major media outlets. The blackout on the protests is in stark contrast to hyper-focused media coverage of anti-Netanyahu protests in the run-up to Israel’s recent elections campaigns, even when those protests were small in number.

The convoy had five additional goals beyond repealing the major corona law, according to the release: returning children to their normal routines, including an end to the mask mandate; a complete opening of the economy, including getting rid of testing and other COVID-19 safety requirements; full disclosure of contracts and protocols that have been withheld from public review and consumption, such as the full contract between the Israeli Health Ministry and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer; ending the violation of individual privacy through street cameras or other illegal surveillance; and respecting individual human rights unconditionally by the government regardless of vaccination status.

“The recent morbidity wave has exposed government shortcomings and poor management of the crisis, which in turn has created a crisis of confidence,” according to the organizers. “Many government forecasts have failed to prove true; many promises haven’t been kept and citizens are realizing that their elected members in the Knesset are detached, improvising with illogical regulations, driven by personal interests and not by the wellbeing of the public. The role of the government is not to rule but to serve its citizens.”

Similar protests are taking place in New Zealand, Australia, France and Holland. A similar convoy is planned in the United States in early March.

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