Comment: ‘There’s a hole in my bucket’

Some steps to address the housing crisis have already been taken, but even if they are successful the crisis at large will be far from over.

July 24, 2011 00:42
2 minute read.
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs

Tent city housing protest 1. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

The camel’s back broke earlier this year when the price of gas shot up, fueled by Middle East unrest. Then came last month’s cottage cheese revolt, when over 100,000 people joined a Facebook group forcing food companies to slash the price of the staple.

Now, tent cities have spread around the country after Tel Aviv resident Daphni Leef used the social media network to call on like-minded people to pitch their tents on the city’s Rothschild Boulevard in protest of spiraling housing prices.

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Tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv for affordable housing

Some have tried to dismiss the housing protests as spoiled Tel Avivians wanting cheap accommodation a stone’s throw from the Habimah Theater, but as the protests have gone from strength to strength, culminating in Saturday night’s mass demonstration, it is clear that it is about a lot more.

It is about a lot more than Tel Aviv, and it is about a lot more than housing. It is about a shortage of 2,500 hospital beds; for the sake of perspective, that is the equivalent of almost two times the size of Israel’s largest hospital. It is about the decline of public services. It is about excessive profiteering, lack of competition, and prices for many goods that are way above those in other countries. It is about free education that is anything but free – and more than anything, it is about the fact that for the vast majority of people in this country, making ends meet has become nearly impossible.

While Israel’s economy is indeed a beacon, prosperity is not trickling down far and fast enough. There is growing frustration at the huge gaps in income – and anger is seething at the “tycoons” who control a huge portion of the wealth of this nation.

“This is our country, and the time has come to return it to the people,” said protest founder Leef.

Some steps to address the housing crisis have already been taken, but even if they are successful the crisis at large will be far from over. Much more needs to be done to address the claims of a generation that feels it is has “just enough air to survive.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is right to call for “reform, reform, reform” and “competition, competition, competition.” But, if the government is to address the larger issues – and not just plug the latest hole in the bucket – then what is needed is “vision, vision, vision,” and “leadership, leadership, leadership.”

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