Taxi drivers bemoan loss of livelihood as protest leaders try enticing them to join anti-gov’t disruption

The drivers are angry that the constant anti-government demonstrations, especially in the greater Tel Aviv area, have cut their income by an estimated 40%.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Anti-judicial reform leaders are trying to entice the country’s taxi drivers to join their protests, Channel 14 reported Monday, but it may backfire on them.

Driver Yossi Levy, who often covers Ben Gurion Airport, told the news channel that he had received a phone call from an unidentified number regarding the second blocking of the terminals that is being planned for Tuesday. He said that the man on the other end of the line told him, “Listen, I’m asking that you join us in the protest. That way we’ll make more noise at the airport and close it hermetically.”

Several thousand anti-government activists clashed with police at Ben Gurion a week ago when blocking roads at the airport and entering the reception hall, with the authorities arresting 37.

The man, who called himself “Yotam,” tried to sweeten the deal, Levy noted.

“He promised to help us at the highest levels,” he said. “He offered to raise the meter [rates] and help us.”

The drivers, however, are angry that the demonstrations are ruining their livelihood.

Kfir Ben Zino, head of the Taxi Drivers Union, estimated to Channel 14 that “about 40% of people’s salaries” are being “destroyed” by those he termed “anarchists.”

“We have not worked on Saturday night for 27 weeks, there is no way to work in the Tel Aviv area,” Levy said. “There is no way to leave the airport in the direction of Tel Aviv – everything is blocked.

“By chance three weeks ago, I took a couple of tourists who needed to get to a hotel in Azrieli – they sat with me in the car for two hours and 45 minutes. I turned off the meter after half an hour because I felt uncomfortable already.”

According to Levy, all the airport taxi drivers are now planning to prevent “the anarchists” from blocking the terminals at the airport. He specifically noted that the drivers “don’t want physical violence,” and added, “If the police don’t do anything to them, they won’t do anything to us either.”

Other businesses are also angry over money lost due to left-wing protests that they do not support. The Big mall chain had announced that it would shut down its malls Tuesday as it did earlier this year in protest over the government’s planned judicial overhaul. Many chains and independent stores that rent space in their plazas said they would stay open this time since the company would not compensate them for their expected financial losses, forcing Big to back down.