Day of protests: More Israelis take to streets against government’s handling of crisis

More large protests expected against government handling of coronavirus crisis, but police say no signs of escalation like in U.S.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israelis are increasingly taking to the streets to protest the government’s handling of the coronavirus health and economic crises, but police say there are no signs the violence will escalate into rioting similar to what took place in America, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

Three large demonstrations are expected Tuesday in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, including near the prime minister’s official residence and in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where residents have been protesting government-imposed lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. A major demonstration is also expected Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

The police are preparing for the events and estimate there will be many demonstrations, the report said.

Police are planning to close the roads leading to the prime minister’s residence area for a few hours Tuesday evening. They said more meticulous work will be done in advance of Saturday’s expected large protest in central Tel Aviv in an attempt to prevent roadblocks that were caused by hundreds of participants at a similar demonstration last Saturday night.

Police expect protests will continue and there will be even more demonstrations in the near future.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders continued to criticize the police for provoking violence in the religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where residents have been protesting nightly against the government-imposed closures designed to target virus hotspots.

Knesset member Yitzhak Cohen of Shas told Israel Army Radio the community was angry over what he called the indiscriminate use of force by police.

“When a family goes for a walk on the Sabbath and suddenly a stun grenade is thrown at them, it is not acceptable. A seminary student is standing who suddenly gets a punch in the face [by a policeman], how can there be no rage?” Cohen said.

A video of the protests over the weekend showed an officer punching a young orthodox man who had asked the policeman why he wasn’t wearing a required face mask. Police on Monday said the officer has been transferred to other duty.

With the soaring coronavirus infection rate and hospitals filling up with those in serious condition, the national nurses’ union is threatening a strike over manpower shortages and what they call “impossible working conditions” as the second wave of infections escalates to record highs.

Social workers are in their second week of a nationwide strike, demanding the government improve the low wages they receive and fill hundreds of empty positions that are causing the system to be overloaded.