Activists briefly block Ayalon highway, demand benefit boost for disabled
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Activists briefly block Ayalon highway, demand benefit boost for disabled

With new government in place, protesters resume 2018 campaign for increased stipends

Activists block the Ayalon Highway near Tel Aviv on May 31, 2020, demanding increased stipends for people with disabilities. (Lavi Naor/courtesy)
Activists block the Ayalon Highway near Tel Aviv on May 31, 2020, demanding increased stipends for people with disabilities. (Lavi Naor/courtesy)

Dozens of disabled protesters and activists blocked a major Tel Aviv highway during Sunday morning’s rush hour as part of a renewed campaign for higher stipends for the disabled and the elderly.

Activists burned tires and temporarily blocked the Ayalon Highway to southbound traffic from Shfayim Junction.

The Israel Police said officers were at the scene to redirect traffic, and later said one lane was reopened, though traffic was still heavy and drivers were advised to use alternate routes. After about an hour, police said the road had been reopened completely.

“We are stepping up the protests, we have issued warnings, and this will continue in the coming days,” said Lavi Naor, a spokesperson for the protest.

Similar protests were held frequently in 2018, with activists threatening ongoing disruptions until their demands were met.

Disabled, handicapped and activists block a road as they take part at a protest calling for better health care and allowances in Tel Aviv on May 31, 2018. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

That year, the government reached a deal to up the stipends and end months of near-daily demonstrations on highways and intersections that brought traffic to a standstill and led to commuting nightmares throughout the country.

However, the implementation of the move was delayed due to Israel’s unprecedented 1.5-year political deadlock, which ended earlier this month as a new government was finally sworn in.

“The excuses are now over, a new government has been formed and I hope it is more sensitive and good to people with disabilities,” said protest leader Alex Friedman.

“It is moral bankruptcy for the State of Israel when people with severe disabilities are forced to risk their lives in the heat, during the coronavirus pandemic, to demand their most basic rights,” he added.

The protesters are calling for government stipends for the disabled and elderly to be increased to NIS 5,300 ($1,500) so that it matches the minimum wage. The Knesset in February 2018 raised the monthly stipend to NIS 3,700 ($1,050).

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