Disabled protesters block main highway near airport
search

Disabled protesters block main highway near airport

Head of demonstration threatens self-immolation over demand benefits be brought up to minimum wage

Illustrative: Disabled and able-bodied activists attend a protest in Tel Aviv, June 13, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Disabled and able-bodied activists attend a protest in Tel Aviv, June 13, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Dozens of disabled people and their supporters used cars and wheelchairs to block the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport from the main Route 1 highway on Wednesday, stepping up a battle to have disability benefits raised to the level of the minimum wage.

Police were advising drivers to take alternative routes.

The protest was the latest in a series of action protesters have taken to push for an increase in state benefits.

In past weeks, protesters have held several demonstrations, blocking Tel Aviv thoroughfares after media reports that a government committee planned to recommend cutting a promised increase in allotments.

On Wednesday, Naomi Morbia, chairwoman of the protest movement, warned that participants would set themselves on fire, the Ynet news site reported.

“We’ve blocked the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport and we’ve tied ourselves together in a chain. We’ve poured gasoline on ourselves and we’ll set ourselves on fire if our demands are not answered. We demand a response. They should at least come and talk to us face to face. We are fighting for our lives and demand benefits that are equal to the minimum wage,” she said.

The protesters are seeking to link their allowances to the minimum wage, which currently stands at NIS 5,000 ($1,410).

In April, after a slew of protests, including a hunger strike, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced a 50 percent increase in monthly disability benefits for the over 200,000 Israelis who receive the financial assistance.

As a result of the NIS 4 billion ($1.1 billion) he allocated, those entitled to monthly disability benefits were due to receive NIS 3,800 ($1,035) a month, up from the NIS 2,342 ($640) they currently receive, phased in over a period of five years, according to Hebrew media reports.

The benefit program followed the recommendations of a committee established by a former Finance Ministry accountant general, Yaron Zelekha.

But in May, it was decided that another committee would be established — this time led by Avi Simchon, chairman of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Media reports indicated the panel would recommend cutting the monthly benefit increase from NIS 1,200 ($338) under the Zelekha committee to NIS 500 ($140); making the criteria for eligibility much stricter and — while maintaining the NIS 4 billion budget framework — cutting the pie differently to direct more funds into helping disabled people with costs such as rent.

read more:
less
comments
more