February 5, 2023 Tel Aviv, Israel
Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv for the fifth consecutive week to demonstrate against controversial legal reforms touted by Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government. Crowds filled the city's central Kaplan Street, carrying blue and white Israeli flags, with signs labeling the new government a "threat to world peace."
The protests have become a weekly fixture on Saturday evenings since the prime minister's new government, dubbed the most right-wing in Israel's history, took office in late December. The rallies were held in 20 cities across the country and tens of thousands gathered in Tel Aviv alone. Among the protesters was former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid who said, "We will save our country because we are unwilling to live in an undemocratic country."
Netanyahu's judicial reforms would allow Israel's parliament to overrule any supreme court decision with a simple majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat body. The proposed reforms would also change the system through which judges are appointed, giving politicians more control. The government has also announced its intention to pursue a policy of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, as well as social reforms that have worried the LGBTQ+ community.
Dania Shwartz, a 44-year-old from Ramat Gan, said that protesters were "reclaiming" the Israeli flag. "We are patriots and we want this country to keep existing. The Israeli flag belongs to all of us - this is not a question of being right or left," she said. Shwartz expressed concern that the new government's social reforms would affect her and her family, particularly her children, who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
The protests in Tel Aviv and other cities show that many Israelis are worried about the impact of the proposed reforms on the country's democracy and their rights. The demonstrations are a symbol of the people's commitment to protecting the values of their nation and preserving its democracy.