More than ten thousand self-employed and unemployed Israelis are protesting Saturday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, against the state’s treatment of the economic crisis that erupted following the corona plague. The demonstration is run under the slogan “War for life, give back the money,” by a coalition calling itself “Cabinet of Hope,” comprising culture organizations, restaurateurs and the students’ union.
כיכר רבין מלאה בהפגנת העצמאים pic.twitter.com/vkHlyUchYr
— שיחה מקומית (@mekomit) July 11, 2020
The organizers are maintaining a non-political stance and have refused requests from members of both the coalition an the opposition in the Knesset to speak. The number of people in the square has been kept at well below capacity, to comply with police demands for social distancing of 6 ft. between participants. But the police also allowed demonstrators to spread out in the streets leading up to Rabin Square.
כיכר רבין – מדהים! pic.twitter.com/amgudvusdk
— Eli Avidar אלי אבידר (@avidareli) July 11, 2020
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented on television an economic assistance program to the self-employed and small business owners, in which he promised them an immediate grant of up to NIS 7,500, or just a little more than $2,100. The monthly minimum wage in Israel is NIS 5,300 ($1,530).
Tamir Tartman, one of the protest’s leaders, told Maariv: “The businesses are collapsing and the grants are not coming, stop talking and promising – do. We have lost all confidence.”
Tomer Mor, protesting with fellow Restaurant owners, said: “The presence here of industrial workers speaks for itself. We are here to maintain economic and national resilience. Only the transfer of funds by the government will help save the economy.”
Ronen Miley, of the Bars and Clubs Association, declared: “We will not stop and we will not give up. The program needs to be amended according to our demands.”
There were no politicians on the stage. Instead, the rally featured representatives from all the business sectors which are affected by the crisis, including Sharona Yitzhaki – a single mother with a tourism business; Lily Ben Shalom – restaurant owner; Haim Hirschberg – owner of the Mondo 2000 rooftop bar which is slated to close down as a result of the crisis; Moran Weisberg – tour guide; Moti Zorger and Reut Gulloch – transportation providers; and many representatives of the world of popular art, such as artist Jenia Tadmor, video technician Guy Prismat, stage manager Tomer Fist and actress Aviv Carmi.
Attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the rally – by meeting with some independent representatives on Friday afternoon – did not go far enough to stop the anger, frustration and disappointment that the government has yet to deliver on all its promises of compensation since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Netanyahu is worried, with good reason, that tonight’s demonstration is just the first in a growing struggle that would only decline with the government meeting all its obligations to the private sector and to the unemployed.