Sunday, August 7, 2011

History in the making - Israeli's take their voice to the streets against high cost of living

(Israelhayom). On Saturday night the middle class proved that it was not about to give up. More than 300,000 people filled the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities across the country to state their case for social justice loudly and clearly, taking the mass protests sweeping the country to a level never seen before in Israel.

The march in Tel Aviv, which some estimates say was 250,000-strong, started at Habima Square at 9 p.m. As the evening progressed and the crowds neared the government compound across from Tel Aviv's iconic Azrieli towers, it became evident that this would be one of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. Huge television screens flanked the sides of major roads, showing real-time video of speakers and performers, including stars Shlomo Artzi, Yehudit Ravitz and Rita, all on hand to support the cause.

Protest organizer Yonatan Levy:
“We must make it known that the people are taking the country into their own hands,We are not going anywhere until our demands are met. The protests are about a government that is disconnected from 90 percent of its citizens. It's a display of power the likes of which hasn't been seen in this country for years.”
Yael, a protester in Tel Aviv:
“The atmosphere here is fantastic, exciting,There is a feeling that we are making history, and I hope that the government does not try to sweep this under the rug with spins and false promises. There is solidarity here. People understand that we have power now and we can't be ignored.”
Singer Rita, before performing the song “It Will Come.”:
“If they would have told me a few weeks ago that the people of Israel would hit the streets to demand better living conditions, I would have said that this was a dream.”
National Student Union chairman Itzik Shmuli:
“Hundreds of thousands have joined us in the streets. They are here to tell one another and the state, that they love Israel with all their hearts. Perhaps this country is ready to give up on us, but we are not ready to give up on this country. We are not ready to give up on our dream to build a home here, to raise our children here. We, the young people, the students, are here now to shout, ‘We have the power to change things!'”

“We are not talking about replacing any specific leader. We are not asking for a replacement of the coalition, which was elected by the people. We, the youth, are only demanding a replacement of cruel economic policies. We demand a more humanitarian economy, rather than the current one that is trampling us. We want an economy that understands people's distress, not one that is only focused on calculating numbers. We demand a better balance between a free economy and a humanitarian economy. We demand a more serious approach to closing social gaps, and a broader solution to basic citizens’ needs, particularly for the weaker among us.”

Shmuli also addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, saying: 
“Netanyahu, we are not modern slaves. You don't give us hope. We are the cream of the crop, and we want change.”
Shlomo Artzi, one of Israel's most iconic and popular singers, took the stage and asked the crowds, “What should I sing for you?”

“The people want social justice!" the crowd yelled back. Artzi invited several protest organizers onto the stage to sing with him, including Stav Shapir, Daphni Leef and Regev Kuntas.