Demonstrators in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv protest Israel’s coronavirus response amid surge in cases

Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, July 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of protesters gathered in a Tel Aviv park and in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem over the weekend to protest the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Their newest concerns include the government’s proposed stipends to get Israelis through the crisis, which they say do not address their needs. The Cabinet was discussing one-time payments of about $218 for single Israelis to about $875 for a family with three or more children.

Police used tear gas and water cannons during the Tel Aviv protest on Saturday night and the water cannons to disperse the crowd of 1,500 in Jerusalem, in the fourth rally there in the last week. There were 15 arrests in Jerusalem and 13 in Tel Aviv on charges that include destruction of property, assaulting police officers and blocking traffic.

The protests come amid heightened tension in the country as coronavirus cases rise. Israel over the weekend recorded its 400th death and restrictions are being reimposed. Some restaurants opened in violation of new rules keeping them closed on weekends, and on Monday, a Knesset committee overruled a decision to shut pools and beaches.

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The protests come exactly nine years after the so-called “social protests” called attention to the high cost of living in Israel and the widening gap between the country’s wealthy and poor.

Protesters from the “Black Flag” movement, which is calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign in the wake of the corruption cases against him, also joined the demonstrations this weekend.