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(A few of) the people demand social justice, at low turnout Tel Aviv rally (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By MICHAL SHMULOVICH 05/13/12) Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-social-protests-are-back-and-stronger-than-ever-say-tel-aviv-residents-and-activists/
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‘The whole nation is the opposition,’ shout participants in year’s first ‘Hebrew Summer’ demonstration, but most of the nation had stayed at home
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“What a nice way to start the summer,” said one of the organizers of Saturday’s social protests — the first series of nationwide demonstrations after a rather sleepy winter — to the crowds in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
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Nice it may have been — good-natured, on a warm early summer evening. But it was no mass protest — despite a week of political argument over the ostensible decline in Israeli democracy entailed in the new Likud-Kadima partnership, which has swollen the coalition to 94 of the 120 MKs, and despite a new survey showing Israelis’ sense that corruption is rife in Israeli business.
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After a very slow start, the year’s first “Hebrew Summer” rally managed to draw something in excess of a thousand Israelis, under a broad umbrella of social issues and demands, among them improving education and healthcare, fighting racism and corruption and establishing an egalitarian society in which the burden of national service of some kind is carried by all. Organizers had not put a figure on their expected turn-out, but it was a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who rallied here at the height of the social protests a year ago.
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“This rally is is not political,” chanted the organizers, yet politics were everywhere. People voiced opposition to the new unity government created by Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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Slogans such as “Bibi, go home,” “The whole nation is the opposition,” and “We, the majority, are taking to the streets,” were echoed throughout the night — and echoed, too, at a demonstration numbering in the hundreds outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. But if the masses are truly infuriated by the new partnership, and worry that Mofaz’s purported commitment to greater social equality will not be reflected in new government policy- making, they failed to vote with their feet on Saturday night.
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“The new government is infuriating,” said Tel Aviv resident Meital Sheinburn, who said that last summer’s protests invigorated her and her friends to become more involved and vocal about social issues. “It’s going to be stronger than ever,” added Meital, referring to the anticipated renewal of the protest movement this summer.
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Michal, a middle-aged Tel Aviv resident, said she finds it important to come to rallies because Israel has its share of problems and the public is seeking change. “Although I’m not a very political person, when I come to the demonstrations I feel that I belong and that I’m making an impact.”
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The demonstration had the same free-loving atmosphere of last summer’s protests, with a flavor of more coordinated precision, for a far smaller audience. There was a procession of video clips and short speeches, as well as chants and songs.
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“We hope that the new wave of change will begin today and that it will spread to larger circles, not just the activists,” said Eran Bril, a member of Beit Ha’am (“Home of the People”), an advocacy group located on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. “After a long winter of establishing new initiatives and organizations, the protests are alive again, here to rein in government corruption and fight cynicism.”
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One family, the Rosenbaums, carried signs protesting police brutality. They made the journey to Tel Aviv from Afula, a town in northern Israel. The father, Yossi, said that during the previous summer he had taken his sons Itamar, 12, and Jonathan, 19, to a few protests and that this year, “they had the ideas for the signs and dragged me here, which is fun.”
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At midnight, the rally was coming to a relatively quiet close, although some people were marching in the street near Rabin Square. Police were trying to contain the demonstrators from spilling out beyond the barricades. It was a rare moment when policing was needed; for most of the night, the men and women in uniform had been somewhat under-employed. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 05/13/12)
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