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Disabled activists block major highway ahead of state budget debate

Protesters have been demanding benefit boosts for handicapped and elderly for years; group warns there will be continued demonstrations if ‘demands are not met’

Disabled activists block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Disabled activists block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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 welfare benefits for the disabled and the elderly.

The protest came ahead of governmental budget discussions. The protesters claimed that the government had not honored previous agreements.

“As long as the demands are not met, we will continue to demonstrate with all our might,” the protest group said in a statement, warning that it would escalate further.

The Israel Police said officers were at the scene to redirect traffic amid the protest, but also after a man fell to his death nearby. Drivers were advised to use alternate routes.

A 46-year-old Eritrean national was found dead after apparently falling from the side of the highway near La Guardia interchange, into the Ayalon River’s drainage area, medics said.

After about an hour, police said the road had been reopened completely.

Disabled activists block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Similar protests were held frequently in 2018, with activists threatening ongoing disruptions. The government reached a deal to increase the benefits and end months of the 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 two-year political deadlock, resulting in further protests in May 2020 as a government was sworn in.

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

Israel’s new government, sworn in June this year, has until early November to pass a state budget.

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