New Yorkers Join Israeli Social Protest, Pointing To Similarities of US and Israeli Economic Ailments

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NY Israelis and Jewish groups will rally on Saturday in Washington Square Park in support of the Tel Aviv Million Person March planned for the same time. Organizers of the September 3rd protest attribute American influence as the source of Israel's growing social and economic inequalities, and hope popular sentiment will lead to changes in both countries.

Thousand of English and Hebrew flyers about the planned rally were distributed citiwide.

Rising inequalities in income distribution and economic power is not an exclusively Israeli problem, and indeed the economic policies that brought this about in many countries around the world were imported from the United States.

Inspired by the seven-week-long protest for greater social justice that have already taken several hundred thousand Israelis to the streets, a group of New Yorkers decided to join in and created “Friends of Israeli Tent Protest”. Some are Israelis living or studying in the Big Apple, some are local Jews responding to the movement's roots in Jewish values, while others simply identify with the call for less social inequality. While some of the Israeli organizers initially only wanted to express solidarity with the protest half a world away, their message seem to resonate among many New Yorkers. Judging by the enthusiastic response they have been getting on Facebook and from local Jewish organizations, they expect a significant crowd at a rally planned for 2:00pm this Saturday. The rally will coincide with a mass demonstration in Israel dubbed "The Million March," hoping to break the record set by the August protests.

"On August 6th, more than 300,000 Israelis took to the streets to protest for affordable housing, healthcare and education for all," said Ohad Kravchick, one of the organizers. "I was moved to see how the seven week protest united Israelis from all regions and backgrounds, thousands of them still sleeping in tent cities that have sprung up across the country." Ohad points to opinion polls that show that more than 85% of the population support this call for a more just society.

The group has been meeting for a few weeks now, while their numbers grew on several Facebook groups, and through connections with local Jewish groups. Organizers were moved when some NY Rabbis issued a call to their congregations to come and support the effort, and by random by-passers who were quick to show support and even purchase the movement's T-shirts.

"The reason this is relevant to those of us who live in the USA," said Ron Poole-Dayan of Riverdale, NY, "is that rising inequalities in income distribution and economic power is not an exclusively Israeli problem, and indeed the economic policies that brought this about in many countries around the world were imported from the United States." Dana Savariego of the original organizing group added that while most Israelis genuinely like the USA, "we are not very pleased that today, among developed economies, Israel is second only to the U.S. in social inequality. Today, ordinary Israelis and ordinary Americans face similar problems, including disproportionate tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations, growing economic concentration, the growth in the number of working poor, and decline of the middle class." However the organizers are optimistic that the popular revolt will lead to lasting reforms in Israel, as already evident in widespread policy reviews and encouraging announcements by the Israeli government. "We hope that the universal feeling that ordinary citizens can gain influence and overcome rigid structures will continue to spread," said Ron, "who knows, maybe this could become another step leading and connecting Tahrir Square to Tel Aviv, to NY and beyond..."

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Ron Poole-Dayan
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