Disabled protesters block major Tel Aviv roads demanding benefits boost

Hundreds of activists halt traffic on Ayalon Highway and junction near Azrieli Towers, causing jams in battle for allowances to match minimum wage

Dozens of activists close Tel Aviv's Azrieli Junction for an hour on August 28, 2018. (Screen capture: Ynet news)
Dozens of activists close Tel Aviv's Azrieli Junction for an hour on August 28, 2018. (Screen capture: Ynet news)

Dozens of disabled protesters and activists on Tuesday blocked major roads in Tel Aviv as part of a campaign for higher disability stipends and pensions for the elderly.

A main thoroughfare through the city was blocked at the near the Azrieli Towers and Defense Ministry headquarters by dozens of protesters chanting “shame” and carrying signs against the government. It was reopened by police after an hour.

Earlier, southbound traffic on the Ayalon Highway was stopped for kilometers for half an hour during rush hour after about a hundred activists blocked the road.

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

Earlier this month disabled protesters blocked traffic at Ben Gurion airport, and threatened ongoing disruptions until their demands were met.

The protests come several months after 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.

A splinter group which broke ranks with the country’s largest disabled rights organization last year has continued to protest, saying the increase to disability benefits negotiated with the Finance Ministry was not enough.

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 raised the monthly stipend to NIS 3,700 ($1,050).

“Finance Minister [Moshe] Kahlon promised but did not keep his word,” said Yonatan Tadmor, one of the organizers of the protest. “The highest disabled stipend is NIS 3,200 ($880) for someone who is 100 percent disabled. This is very far from the minimum wage. Every year 70 disabled people commit suicide because they do not want to be a burden on their families and have no ability to provide for themselves.”

“The State of Israel … continues to leave the disabled of Israel in poverty and abandoned,” said Ayal Cohen, leader of the protest group.

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