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Tens of Thousands of Protesters Flood Israel's Streets Demanding Economic and Social Justice

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Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily.

by David Harris-Gershon

With the Occupy Wall Street protests reverberating from America, tens of thousands of protesters marched in cities across Israel, reigniting their struggle for social and economic justice.

Over 20,000 gathered in Tel Avivs Rabin Square to demand social and economic justice, with many echoing refrains now heard at Occupy Wall Street protests.

Over 20,000 gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to demand social and economic justice, with many echoing refrains now heard at Occupy Wall Street protests.

Protesters railed against a host of social and economic issues, including the growing gap between the rich and poor in Israel, with many protesters echoing refrains now heard at Occupy Wall Street protests in America. Many held signs that read “We are the 99 percent,” and several protesters mirrored the occupation language that has become synonymous with Occupy Wall Street. One particularly poignant sign read “ Occupy Tel Aviv, Not Palestine.”

The rallies across Israel were held against the backdrop of tragic escalations of violence in the southern portion of the country. Rockets fired by Islamic Jihad in Gaza struck several southern cities, killing one Israeli civilian, and an Israeli bombing raid in Gaza killed at least seven Palestinians. In spite of the intense security situation, remarkably, approximately 20,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv, another 5,000 in Jerusalem and thousands more in locations across the country.

In the midst of such a tragic and emotional security event, these types of numbers would not have showed up for a protest of this nature in the past. The security situation – the rockets falling in southern Israel – would have likely trumped all else. However, as is the case in countries throughout the world, difficult economic conditions precipitated by government corruption and corporate greed are changing the game.

This is a new generation of Israelis – a generation which seems unwilling to allow security situations to paralyze them, a generation which can simultaneously address social inequities while acknowledging national losses.

A protester in Tel Aviv with a clear message of economic frustration directed at Israels leadership.

A protester in Tel Aviv with a clear message of economic frustration directed at Israel's leadership.

Social justice protesters plan to continue their struggle with the nation’s first citizen-led general strike, called “The People’s Strike,” set to take place on November 1. Nearly 5,000 Israelis have pledged so far to participate on the protest leaders’ Facebook page.

Daphni Leef, the iconic figure who began Israel’s tent protests on July 14 when she encamped along Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv as an act of civil disobedience, spoke to the crowd in Rabin Square. Among many of her messages was the following:

“The politicians and people in power cannot decide when this struggle ends. We are the only ones who can make this decision, we are all responsible for this.”

Indeed, when and how this struggle ends will be up to the new generation of Israelis now leading it.

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