Disabled protesters block major TA highway demanding benefits increase
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Disabled protesters block major TA highway demanding benefits increase

Handful of wheelchair-bound activists halt traffic for an hour, causing miles-long jams in battle for allowances to match minimum wage

A handful of wheelchair-bound protesters close Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway for an hour on June 28, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot news)
A handful of wheelchair-bound protesters close Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway for an hour on June 28, 2018. (Screen capture: Hadashot news)

A handful of disabled protesters and activists on Thursday blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv for about an hour as part of a campaign for higher disability stipends and pensions for the elderly.

Southbound traffic on the Ayalon Highway was stopped for kilometers during rush hour after a few wheelchair-bound activists closed the road.

The protesters were 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.

There were similar protests in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beersheba, but they did not stop traffic. This was the first time the disabled protesters held four demonstrations simultaneously.

The protesters are a splinter group who broke ranks with the country’s largest disabled rights organization last year after the latter agreed to an increase to disability benefits negotiated with the Finance Ministry. The protesters say the increase was not enough.

Even though police were able to remove the protesters after an hour, there were long delays as traffic slowly started to flow again.

After a year of negotiations and dozens of wildcat protests blocking roads and snarling traffic, the Knesset in February raised the monthly stipend to NIS 3,700 ($1,050). However, activists say that this is insufficient to meet their basic needs.

“The State of Israel makes a unilateral law about the disabled stipend without coordinating or agreeing with the leaders of the disabled struggle and continues to leave the disabled of Israel in poverty and abandoned,” said Ayal Cohen, leader of the protest group.

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