Social justice protests rock Israel

By Paul Goldman (NBC News and JWN)The wind of the “Arab spring” revolution is being felt in the State of Israel. A “one-million person march” took place Saturday night in Tel Aviv with a call for “tzedek hevrati” – meaning social justice.

As in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, youngsters are spearheading this demand for reform.

This is the eighth week of this protest, which started when a student had to leave her apartment because she couldn’t afford the high rental cost. Instead, she set up a tent in Rothschild Boulevard in the center of Tel Aviv. She was soon joined by people sympathizing with her, feeling a need for change. The tent city grew, and eventually thousands of tents were set up across the country with people vowing to stay until the government makes changes.

On Saturday night, organizers didn’t quite reach the million protesters they had hoped for, but still, in the largest of these economic protests so far, about 300,000 swamped Tel Aviv, according to police estimates. With Israel’s population of some seven million, however, a proportionate demonstration would bring out about 12 million Americans into the streets. Smaller protests were held in other cities.

Everywhere you could see families holding flags and banners calling for Binyamin Netanyahu to resign as prime minister. Young and old chanted slogans calling for the restructuring of the economy.

The call is for change that will bring down rental prices, change that will let the middle class pay less tax, change that will bring down the price of milk. One banner said that if the government is against the people than the people are against the government.

“We are the new Israelis and we want change; we want real reform,” Itzik Shmuli, head of the National Union of Israeli Students, said in a speech to the crowd. “Our Israel is awakening to a new reality.”