Mass protest: Israelis take to the streets -- Over a quarter million people took to the to the streets Saturday to protest spiralling living costs and soaring rents that are making it impossible for working people to make ends meet. The marches were the largest social protest in Israel’s history; accounting for the size of Israel’s population, this is the equivalent of a protest by 10 million people in the United States, or 2 million in Britain.

At the largest rally in Tel Aviv, over 200,000 young people, retired couples and families, both Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews, demonstrated under the slogan “the government has abandoned the people.” Banners read “The People Demand Social Justice” and “An entire generation demands a future.”

At least 30,000 people turned out in Jerusalem, with some demonstrators marching on the residence of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Smaller rallies took place in Beer Sheva, Haifa and so-called development or slum towns such as Kiryat Shmona, Ashkelon, and Dimona.

Palestinian activists set up a tent city in Taibeh that has attracted hundreds of visitors, while a number of Druze youngsters have set up tents outside Yarka and Julis, villages in the Western Galilee.

Participants in the protests have made powerful comparisons with the mass movements that are sweeping Arab countries, particularly Egypt and Tunisia. Protesters carry signs written in Hebrew and Arabic reading “Resign, Egypt is here.” Tel Aviv’s Habima Square is being called Netanyahu’s Tahrir Square.

The demonstrations, which are now in their fourth week, started as a Facebook call for a tent city protest in Tel Aviv over the cost of housing. They have spread throughout the country, fuelled by the outrage over the dozen billionaire families that monopolise much of Israel’s economy. It is a powerful outcry against Israel’s proteksia, the byword for its system of rule by money and connections.


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