Tens of thousands of people held a protest against the government on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv to coincide with the official Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem that was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior ministers and officials.
The Tel Aviv rally was organized by activists who have led opposition to the government’s planned far-reaching changes to the judiciary, which critics say would weaken the country’s democratic foundations.
Organizers described it as an “independence party,” and it included music, performances by high-profile singers, and speeches from protest leaders.
Leading figures from the anti-government movement read out sections from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, among them former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, fellow former Israeli Air Forces commander Dan Halutz and award-winning actress Hanna Azoulay Hasfari.
“Israel is marking 75 years since its founding while under a relentless attack on Israeli democracy that is tearing the people apart,” organizers said in a statement.
“Facing the attackers are millions of Israelis who love the country, who will not give up even an iota of democracy and equality.”
The protesters gathered at the Azrieli Junction and then blocked Kaplan Street and other roads in the area.
As they paraded, some unfurled a huge “Torch of Democracy” banner.
Police issued an alert to drivers of likely heavy congestion across Tel Aviv as a result.
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Also Tuesday evening, about a thousand people attended a protest rally in Jerusalem, held close to the location of the official Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl.
As a pre-recorded video message from Netanayhau was screened at the official event, the demonstrators sang the national anthem.
The prime minister did not deliver a live speech at the ceremony, which was held under tight security amid fears activists would attempt a publicity stunt or disrupt the event.
Smaller protests were held in other locations including Raanana, Yehud, and Zichron Yaakov.
Though the overhaul legislation has been put on hold while the government conducts negotiations for an agreement with opposition parties, mass weekly protests have continued, spearheaded by gatherings on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.