More than 10,000 Israelis whose livelihoods have imploded because of the coronavirus erupted in rage over the government’s economic policies at a protest Saturday night that filled Rabin Square in downtown Tel Aviv.
Actors, nightclub owners, hotel and domestic workers and people from countless other walks of life demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “get the money flowing,” likening their struggle to a war, but one for bread — a staple that is Israeli shorthand for economic anxieties.
Masks were in abundance but distance between protesters was not. The police said they had authorized 1,800 people to attend the demonstration but the crowd overflowed the two-city-block plaza in front of City Hall.
Mr. Netanyahu, whose management of the pandemic was already under assault — the infection is spreading in Israel faster than ever — had tried hard to defuse the protest in meetings on Friday, Israeli media reported. But its organizers refused to call it off.
The unemployment rate is 21 percent, with more than 850,000 Israelis jobless. But differences in the way different categories of workers are protected are leaving the self-employed, small-business owners and unsalaried workers with far less of a safety net than those whose companies put them on unpaid leave.
Mr. Netanyahu announced Thursday that the self-employed would receive more than $2,100 by next week, but protesters said earlier rounds of subsidies were too little and had arrived too late. “Enough with the lies!” read one sign.
“We need the money now, not tomorrow,” said Avinoam Nehamad, who owns a tourism company, according to Walla News.