Dozens of business owners marched through Tel Aviv on Thursday, burning tires and holding signs in protest of the coronavirus lockdown, which has left them without a source of income.
The protests began just hours before Israel's cabinet was set to reconvene to discuss lifting some restrictions on the commerce industry, which sustained a heavy economic blow during the pandemic. Finance Minister Israel Katz has demanded small businesses, including street shops, be allowed to reopen as soon as next week.
On Yaffo Street in Tel Aviv, protesters burned tires and lamented the government's conduct, blaming it for abandoning them.
"The state decided it wants us gone. We must open businesses, we need our livelihood," Ilan Dayan, the owner of a women's clothes shop in Holon told the Ynet studio.
"We, the business owners, are in dire straits. The state isn't helping us with anything. We are not asking for much – open our stores and we will adhere to health regulations. If you want to tighten them, be my guest, just let us work."
Dayan also directed scathing criticism at the government for mismanaging the pandemic and the subsequent financial crisis.
"[The government] can't run a schedule, I wouldn't even let them run a kiosk… why are they doing this to us? Some sectors get leniencies and even the enforcement is unequal," he said.
Oded Babai, who owns a fashion business in Tel Aviv, said that political games between lawmakers are the cause of business owners' plights.
"I can't even follow who against whom anymore, but one thing is for sure, business owners are falling apart, people are collapsing and our inventory is piling," Babai said. "If we can't sell our inventory in the next two weeks, half of us in the fashion industry will go home."
"Where's my economy minister? Why is he silent? Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, paying 60% of taxes, and these criminals are killing us."