The national protest movement got another vote of confidence on Tuesday from Tel Aviv's Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who became the most senior haredi figure to officially support the cause. Lau warned, however, that the protest would only succeed if it remained non-political.
Meanwhile the Knesset convened for a special session despite its summer recess, in response to growing protests against the high cost of living. Protesters who marched from Jerusalem's 'tent city' gathered outside the building and called, "Come out of the Knesset, the state is collapsing!"
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Israel's former chief Rabbi met with National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli and protest initiator Daphni Leef in his Tel Aviv office. The meeting followed continuous efforts to join forces with the religious public, as part of the protest movement's aim to present a united front with all sectors of Israeli society.
"I will call the prime minister today – I still have direct contact with him – and ask him to declare what is the mandate of the Trachtenberg committee and whether he will accept its recommendations," Lau promised.
"This is my contribution to the protest. The cry is understandable and justified, but the protest will only succeed if it remains a-political and does not descend into violence."
Lau stressed the importance of remaining united in the struggle, adding that "this is the first time I can recall such a strong connection between strangers, not in a time of war.
"I admit – you have won my heart on this issue," he added.
The Rabbi encouraged the leaders of the protest to carry on with their struggle, while cooperating with the governmental effort to resolve the issues. "Even the Chinese Wall started with one brick," he said, "Let's lay this brick together."
However he also urged the protest leaders to give the government-appointed committee a chance. "I don't feel that there is a disconnection between the people and the government, as some of the ministers have visited the tents on Rothschild," he said.
"There is no need to set up a barrier between citizens and decision-makers. If I were Trachtenberg I would tell you, 'My children, I am not against you, I love you'." Lau also scheduled another meeting with the protesters on Monday.
'Change policy from wealth to welfare'
The special Knesset hearing was convened at the request of Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin and 25 MKs. During the session, hundreds demonstrated outside the building, clashing with security forces and police.
Dror-Israel movement Spokesperson Uri Matoki told Ynet that the procession to the Knesset "is clear evidence that the public does not buy into the tricks and spins of the government.
"We are hear with a clear message – the policy must change from wealth to welfare," he said.
At the opening of the session, Opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni addressed the nationwide protest movement, saying that "the amazing thing happening outside the Knesset can and should lead to talks of a new Israel."
Livni backed the protest leaders, saying their job "was not to make decision and decide on budget, but to fight," adding that it was the Knesset's job "to fight for them."
The Opposition chairwoman slammed the government and noted that "the leadership should be the one designing the vision. The people selected their representatives, not committees. This is no substitute for the vision."
Yoav Zitun, Omri Efraim, ad Moran Azulay contributed to this report
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