There were a lot of young Hashomer Hatzair demonstrators chanting Anachnu Harov, Chazarnu LaRehov (“We are the majority, we’ve returned to the street”).
Anyway, here are some of my impressions of the demo that marked the first anniversary of the social protest movement, drawn from my latest blog post at The Times of Israel website:
…. When I got home [from the July 14 demonstration], I learned that Moshe Silman, a desperate 57 year old man had set himself on fire. The note he left said “The State of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless…” and he blamed “the State of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, for the humiliation that weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich.” …
Facing Azrieli corporate towers (photo by H. Schenker)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators left Habima Square, marched down Ibn Gvirol Street, then turned into Kaplan Street and headed towards the imposing Azrieli Towers overlooking the train station and the road to Jerusalem. I wondered why that location was chosen, and then I noticed that we were surrounded by three main artifacts – The three Azrieli Towers which represent corporate power, the Soviet-like Ministry of Interior Building across the way representing government, and the towers of the Defense Ministry and military headquarters in the Kirya, the Israeli Pentagon. The demonstrators appeared to be unconsciously confronting the dangers of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower famously warned about in his farewell address.
After having reached this destination, the demonstrators turned around and started heading back to Ibn Gvirol Street. Five makeshift platforms built along the route, all equipped with mikes and a moderator now served as an urban Hyde Park with demonstrators taking turns to express their feelings. …
…. So what does it all mean?
I ran into Michael Roeh, former Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv back in the year 2000, and said to him “I hope this can all be channeled into constructive change.” His response was: “Let a thousand flowers bloom.”
The parties were there too. Meretz, Labor, Hadash and some of the smaller more radical groups, even the “New Likud” was there, all trying to sign up new members. Also demonstrators carrying the slogan “Register for a party and vote!” Clearly, all of this energy will have to find political channels of expression.
As one sign said – “We have not disappeared!” And one wonders what the long-term impact of Moshe Silman’s fiery act will be.