Gravestones placed in central Tel Aviv to protest economic crisis

Fake gravestones of failed businesses placed in Tel Aviv square to protest fate of small businesses.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israelis walking through central Tel Aviv were surprised Wednesday after protesters placed dozens of gravestones in Rabin Square outside the city hall representing business that had gone bankrupt during the coronavirus crisis.

Strict health regulations imposed by the government earlier this year forced many businesses to close for several months, but also resulted in many small businesses around the country closing their doors for good, throwing the owners and employees out of work.

A new national budget has been repeatedly delayed over coalition government infighting.

“While the government is engaged in political survival and petty quarrels, businesses continue to close and tens of thousands of Israelis lose their livelihoods and are thrown into the cycle of poverty,” the Centers for Social Justice, a social action group behind the tombstones said.

According to the group, the exhibition was established “with the aim of expressing the plight of business owners in Israel and illustrating the government’s failure to address the economic situation.”

At the peak of the spring lockdown Israel imposed to rein in the coronavirus epidemic, unemployment hit 25 percent with one in four Israelis out of work.

Since restrictions started easing in May, that number has dropped only a few percentage points with the jobless rate hovering around 19 percent.

“Elected officials are completely disconnected … Israelis are crying out for real aid and solutions to the economic situation,” said Zohar (Izzy) Carmon, director of the Centers for Social Justice.

Carmon said small business owners need a safety net and some more effective solutions to the economic crisis.

“In practice, all that is needed is to approve a budget, put your hand in your pocket and prevent tens of thousands more Israelis from being pushed into unemployment. As long as they continue to play roulette with our lives, this cemetery will expand,” Carmon said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz reached a power-sharing agreement in April to form a government to deal with the pandemic. Part of their coalition deal included an agreement to pass a two-year budget.

But Netanyahu has insisted on a budget to cover only the remainder of 2020, while  Gantz is adamant that the government honor its agreement for a two-year budget.

Their disagreement brought the country to the brink of political meltdown, but a compromise reached over the weekend pushed off a budget decision by 100 days and avoided a return to national elections.