Parents, students protest judicial overhaul; major highway blocked

Hundreds take part in rallies in several locations around the country against government’s plans; at Hakfar Hayarok youth village demonstrators close road leading into Tel Aviv

Parents at a school in north Tel Aviv participate in nationwide demonstrations against the proposed judicial overhaul, February 9, 2023 (Courtesy)
Parents at a school in north Tel Aviv participate in nationwide demonstrations against the proposed judicial overhaul, February 9, 2023 (Courtesy)

Hundreds of parents and students demonstrated outside educational institutes Thursday against the government’s planned radical overhaul of the judicial system. which critics say will severely undermine democracy.

The demonstrations at schools and kindergartens were held under the banner “There is no education without democracy.”

Protests were held in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Haifa, and Rosh Ha’ayin, among other locations.

Some 600 people participated in a main demonstration held at the Hakfar Hayarok youth village and blocked the highway to Tel Aviv, waving Israeli flags and chanting “Democracy.”

Organizers of the  rallies said in a statement, “Democracy is not a political tool in the hands of the right or the left. It belongs to all of us, especially to our children.

“We call for maintaining the values of equality, democracy, and pluralism, and making sure that citizenship studies also include pluralism, critical thinking, and independent thought,” the statement said.

One mother, identified only as Yael, who came with her daughter to the Hakfar Hayarok protest told the Ynet website that “we are fighting for the democracy, for the education of our children and the future of the country.”

“We won’t allow shady people to impose a revolution against democracy and against education on us,” she continued.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms planned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

In addition, control over some aspects of the education system have been parceled out to far-right, anti-LGBT coalition lawmaker MK Avi Moaz, who will oversee external programming in schools, and who is hostile to aspects of existing content that teach pluralism and tolerance.

Protesters were planning later in the day to travel in a convoy on major intercity highway Route 1, and to hold a rally outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem and his private residence in Caesarea, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

There have been weekly mass protests against the government’s moves, led by weekend protests in Tel Aviv. The demonstrations have seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets.

MK Simcha Rothman, of the far-right Religious Zionism party, rejected the notion that anti-government protesters are a significant portion of the population.

“Even combined, they don’t amount to the number of voters for [hard-left political party] Meretz, which didn’t pass the threshold [for entry into the Knesset],” he told Ynet in an interview Thursday. “They lost in the elections and they are willing to burn the country. They are not democratic or patriots.”

Meretz party, which had made it into the Knesset in every election since its founding in 1992, failed to win enough votes to pass the threshold in the recent November elections.

Netanyahu’s victorious coalition is the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu has pushed back against the criticism, saying that the proposals would strengthen rather than weaken democracy, and that his government was carrying out the will of the people.

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