‘Fighting for our future’: Tel Aviv high schoolers rally against judicial overhaul

‘Students are asking to take a moral, not a political, stand,’ says Ironi Dalet High School principal Uri Lass

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Students march in Tel Aviv against the government's planned judicial overhaul, January 29, 2023. (Twitter: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Students march in Tel Aviv against the government's planned judicial overhaul, January 29, 2023. (Twitter: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Thousands of high school students held a one-hour strike on Sunday in protest of the government’s plans for sweeping changes to Israel’s judiciary.

In Tel Aviv, students from the Ironi Dalet public high school were seen marching along Dizengoff Street toward Habima Square, carrying signs that read: “Fighting for our future,” “Not in our school,” and “Students for democracy.”

The planned overhaul seeks to curb the powers of Israel’s judiciary by severely restricting the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

It was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin earlier this month and has since drawn intense criticism, as well as weekly mass protests and public petitions by various officials, professionals, private companies, and other bodies.

“Students are asking to take a moral, not a political, stand — democracy is important! Individuals’ rights are important! And they will make their voices heard loud and clear in the heart of the first Hebrew city,” said Uri Lass, principal of Ironi Dalet.

The school originally defined the march as a “protest against the tyranny of the majority.” However, that part was removed after Education Ministry Director-General Asaf Zalel addressed a letter to Lass and told him to refrain from comments that “could give the march a political undertone.”

Separately, student protests were held in other high schools across the city.

The opposition’s Yesh Atid party said it had organized some of the rallies, with protests held at Katzenelson High School in Kfar Saba, Leyada – The Hebrew University Secondary School in Jerusalem, De Shalit High School in Rehovot, Shchafim School for Special Education in Netanya, and Shitim Darca High School in Sapir.

“Students across the country took to the streets this morning to protest the political coup and against handing over their education to extremists and anti-liberal entities,” opposition leader and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid said on Twitter.

“The future generation too will not let this extremist government ruin Israeli democracy,” he added.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who attended one of the marches, told students he was proud of them for taking a stand. “You could have gone home, but you’re here. This isn’t a protest, we’re not against anything, we’re for democracy and the state. Students [here] understand that in soccer, the judge can’t be picked by fans of the rival team, that democracy means protecting human rights. As a mayor, I’m proud that these are the city’s students,” he said.

Meanwhile, smaller protests of students supporting the planned judicial reforms and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government were spotted at several sites across the country.

“Leftists are not the only ones allowed to rally, we can too,” one student holding a Likud sign at Habima Square told the Walla news site.

Last week, hundreds of workers in the tech sector blocked roads in central Tel Aviv as they held a one-hour strike in protest of the government’s plans. Dozens of Israeli companies and organizations granted permission for their workers to attend demonstrations held around the country.

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