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Protesters in Israel block roads, Haifa marine port on 'Day of Disruption'

Thousands of people are protesting against the government’s judicial overhaul plan, blocking highways, Haifa port and entrances to airport terminals.
 Israeli forces disperse a protest against the government's controversial judicial reform bill in Tel Aviv on March 9, 2023.  (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protestors rallied on Thursday across Israel blocking major highway junctions, and Haifa marine port in what has been dubbed a “Day of Disruption” against the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul plan.

The day started with marches by parents and their children. Marches started at schools, converging toward central meeting points around the country. Many work places are closed, with employees either striking or having received a day off to join the protest.

Demonstrators have gathered at the main routes in Tel Aviv, at central highway exits in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and in the center of Jerusalem, blocking traffic and waving Israeli flags. Police have managed to open some of the routes, but other spots are still blocked. In several places, police are enabling some of the demonstrations and marches to take place.

Early Thursday, demonstrators blocked the entrance to the port in Haifa. Dozens of small boats sailed at the seaside entrance of the port, disrupting marine traffic. The protesters were for the most part naval reservist soldiers and officers, and members of the “Brothers in Arms” protest group, including two former Israel Defense Forces naval corps commanders. The protesters carried signs that read, “In a dictatorship, the sea is closed.”

The naval reservists group issued a statement. “For decades we have been sailing day and night and guarding the main lifeline of the State of Israel...We chose to disrupt operations at Haifa port to call in a clear voice on the Israeli government to stop the uncontrolled voyage that will cause the State of Israel to run aground,” it said.

In another disruption operation, protesters blocked for a short while entrances to the terminals at Ben-Gurion Airport, but were dispersed by police. Organizers of the protest have called in recent days to disrupt traffic in the Ben-Gurion airport area, especially on Thursday early noon when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to fly to Rome for a three-day visit, including a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Before departing to Italy, Netanyahu met at the airport with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The meetings of the senior American official with Netanyahu and with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were relocated from the Defense Ministry’s Tel Aviv headquarters to the environs of the airport because of the expected demonstrations.

Police had said it will not allow demonstrators to interrupt with the operation of the airport. Still, Netanyahu arrived to the airport by helicopter and not by car, so as not to encounter any traffic problems. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived at the airport to supervise police operations there.

In a local initiative, neighbors of Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana are demonstrating against him outside his home in a Tel Aviv neighborhood, calling on him to back away from supporting the judicial overhaul. In another operation, activists blocked Thursday morning the entrance to the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem with barb wire and sand bags. The conservative Kohelet think tank has been supporting the judicial overhaul program and Netanyahu’s far-right partners.

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