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Protesters with disabilities block railway lines in renewed rights campaign

Demonstrators gather at intersections in north, temporarily disrupt some services, vow more action in coming days unless demands are met

Screen capture from video of protesters with disabilities blocking a level-crossing, November 3, 2021. (Ynet)
Screen capture from video of protesters with disabilities blocking a level-crossing, November 3, 2021. (Ynet)

Protesters with disabilities blocked railway lines and roads Wednesday as they resumed their campaign for an increase in the stipends that they receive from the state.

Demonstrators crowded a railway crossing close to the Atlit station in the north and blocked a crossing near Zichron Yaakov, disrupting services between Haifa and Binyamina.

Police arrived to remove the protesters. There were no reports of arrests and rail services returned to normal.

The campaigners want their disability benefits to match the minimum wage.

Organizations leading the protests said in a statement the aim was “to commit the government to uphold the original agreement,” a reference to a 2018 deal.

The statement threatened further demonstrations in the coming days, including outside the Knesset and the homes of ministers and lawmakers, the airport, and major highways.

The disabled community is divided over the current situation, after many representative organizations reached an understanding with the government earlier this year.

The Disabled, Not Half a Human Being organization condemned the protests, calling those who took part “a group of extremists that decided to return to disrupting the daily life of Israeli citizens for no reason,” the Ynet news site reported.

Last month the Knesset Welfare committee approve raising disability allowance to NIS 3,700 ($1,180) a month, and raising the threshold of income a disabled person can have before they lose their rights to an allowance to NIS 5,300 ($1,690) a month. The new rules are included in the state budget the Knesset is set to vote on this week.

Similar protests were held frequently in 2018, with activists threatening ongoing disruptions. The government reached a deal to increase the benefits and end months of near-daily demonstrations on highways and intersections, which brought traffic to a standstill and led to commuting nightmares throughout the country.

However, the implementation of the move was delayed due to two years of political deadlock, resulting in further protests in May 2020 when a government was sworn in.

Israel’s new government, sworn in June this year, has until November 14 to pass a state budget. A Knesset session to vote on the budget opened on Tuesday and is expected to end by Friday.

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