Chanting "We Are the 99 Percent" and "The People Demand Social Justice," thousands of Israelis returned to the streets, mirroring this summer's massive tent protests that helped to inspire #ows (and which were themselves inspired by Egypt's encampment-based protests in Tahrir Square).
Protesters marching in Tel Aviv.
Tonight's rallies, which happened all across Israel, will be followed next week by the nation's first-ever citizen-led general strike on November 1, one day before Occupy Oakland will engage in a similar effort. Nearly 5,000 Israelis have already pledged to participate.
The numbers at tonight's rallies appear to have been dampened by tragic events tonight, including rocket attacks on the southern part of the country (from Islamic Jihad in Gaza) that killed one Israeli and an Israeli bombing raid in Gaza that killed at least seven. And yet, remarkably, tens of thousand of protesters flooded the combined streets of Jerusalem, Kiryat Shmonah and Tel Aviv, as well as a number of other location around Israel.
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.
Things are changing.
Tonight, I (@David_EHG) liveblogged the marches, and updates from the evening scroll in order below:
2:48 PM EST: Reports that between 5,000-10,000 are in Tel Aviv alone, with the crowds growing.
3:00 PM EST: There are now 20,000 just in Tel Aviv, with many more around the country as people begin gathering in central squares.
3:02 PM EST: There are now nearly 5,000 in Jerusalem, and approximately 30,000 people marching across Israel right now, a country with only 7,000,000 citizens. And the numbers are growing.
3:08 PM EST: Channel 10 in Israel is confirming over 30,000 people and growing, and this with rockets falling in the southern part of the country and the protests in the south being cancelled.
This would have never happened in the past. NEVER.
3:15 PM EST: In Jerusalem, protesters are marching toward Prime Minister Netanyahu's residence, with police resistance. Let's hope things remain peaceful.
3:35 PM EST: Massive crowds are chanting "Revolution Starts Now" and "The People Demand Economic Justice" in Tel Aviv.
3:42 PM EST: Here's a new picture of the crowds from within by Activestills:
3:44 PM EST: This is the crowd in Tel Aviv:
3:48 PM EST: Israeli media is declaring the protests a mild failure, which is absolutely ridiculous. Thousands upon thousands have taken the streets to demand economic justice as rockets are tragically falling in the country.
In past years, this security situation would have trumped all else.
Not anymore. The 99 percent won't be silent.
4:06 PM EST: It appears that preparations are being made in Israel for a major bombing campaign in Gaza. As the protesters demand social justice for all citizens, the violence continues.
4:11 PM EST - Channel 10 in Israel is reporting 100,000 in the streets, according to Twitter reports. If so, I'm amazed.
4:21 PM EST: Reports are coming in that Israel is retaliating heavily in Gaza as the protests continue. It should be noted that the rockets which fell in Israel earlier this evening came from Islamic Jihad, a militant terror organization that is separate from and in many cases in opposition to the ruling Hamas entity.
4:31 PM EST: Daphni Leef, one of the protest leaders and the woman who began these social protests in Israel this summer when she first camped in Tel Aviv, is now speaking.
"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."
4:36 PM EST: Daphni Leef:
This social justice struggle is about how our entire country is going to look. We cannot stop until things change.
4:46 PM EST: Daphni Leef:
This summer, when we marched together by the thousands, our eyes were opened. We saw that we were not alone in this story (of economic injustice).
This is exactly what we're seeing, on a grand and dramatic scale, with our own Occupy Wall Street movement. We're seeing that we're not alone. That we are a collective with a collective story that needs to be told.
4:54 PM EST: It appears that many Labor party Knesset members are coming out and publicly supporting many of the protesters' core issues. The Labor Party, a once-powerful institution on the left that has lost favor and parliamentary seats in recent years, has seen a resurgence since these protests began in the summer.
If there is a political echo effect from these protests, the rise of a strong labor left might be it.
5:04 PM EST: Just look at this crowd in Tel Aviv:
5:15 PM EST: Faces from Tel Aviv:
5:22 PM EST: Tragedy amidst the inspiring visuals. An Israeli man has died from his injuries from a rocket attack earlier this evening in Southern Israel (fired by Islamic Jihad), and injuries/casualties are being reported in Gaza from an Israeli bombing raid.
5:30 PM EST: As the official protests near conclusion, large crowds began to block the streets and traffic, at which point police moved in. However, it appears that, unlike previous protests, people have voluntarily left the streets. So far, no police confrontations of note.
Clarification: it seems that police were able to push crowds back, with few confrontations. Two arrests have been reported so far.
Many on Twitter are noting how impressed they were by the crowds, the organization and the energy.
6:20 PM EST: The tragic news. According to multiple news reports, seven Palestinians have died tonight in Israel's bombing raid, and one Israeli has died from Islamic Jihad's rocket attack.
As for the protests, the next phase is a general strike ("The People's Strike") planned for November 1, one day before Oakland's strike is scheduled here in the U.S.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Events Leading Up to Tonight's Marches
1) Israelis Show Solidarity w/ Occupy Wall Street
On the 100-day anniversary of Israel's tent protests, when Israelis began camping in public parks and city squares across the country, protesters in Tel Aviv marched marched with #OccupyRothschild in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and to protest recent tent evictions by the authorities:
Protesters hold signs that read, "My tent was here!"
2) Protest leaders "occupy" national banks with flash mobs
To raise awareness for tonight's rallies, and to protest the corrupt role banks have played in the widening gap between the rich and poor in Israel, activists engaged in flash mobs at national banks across Tel Aviv:
The chant: "The People Demand Social Justice."
3) Hundreds in Jerusalem faced off with Israel's Housing Minister
Demanding affordable, public housing and protesting evictions and home demolitions, hundreds gathered outside Housing Minister Eli Atias' home in Jerusalem.
Protesters chant and hold signs demanding justice and affordable housing.
Police responded in force:
A social justice protester is pinned against the wall of the Housing Minister's home.
4) Protest against the Israel government's treatment of Holocaust survivors
Social justice protest activists and citizens protested the poverty many remaining Holocaust survivors face as the country's richest elite continue to gobble up increasing amounts of wealth.