Thousands gathered in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night for a rally against soaring housing prices and the high cost of living.
rally, which was the country’s biggest social-issues demonstration in
years, brought together people from tent cities across the country, who
have been camping over the past week, as well as tens of thousands of
other Israelis from all walks of life.RELATED:Social Affairs: ‘A drop in a sea of injustices’Right wing group pulls out of Tel Aviv tent protest
“We want social justice, not charity” and, “The people want social
justice,” the protesters marched from Kikar Habimah to the Tel Aviv
Museum, where they held the demonstration.
Overcome with emotion,
Daphni Leef, one of the organizers and the first activist to call for
the tent protest, said, “I never believed this would happen – we are not
“We got so used to suffering alone, and our desperation
was so great... In my entire life I never thought I would give up my
apartment and find my home. We are in the street, and we must stay in
the street! “A roof over your head is the most basic thing, that all of
us deserve. There are people who are fighting every day to have this
roof over their heads. I as a young woman feel that I am almost there,”
Leef said. “Everyone, all of this generation, we are one!” she added, to
The rally was the largest event yet in the
social movement that started last week with a small tent city set up on
Rothschild Boulevard and quickly turned into a phenomenon, launching
copycat tent cities across the country.
The protest movement was
launched after 26-year-old Tel Avivian Leef’s landlord raised her rent
and she opened a Facebook page calling for Israelis to camp out in
Rothschild to protest the country’s housing costs.
The description on the Facebook page for Saturday’s march frames the
event as one of historic proportions, on par with the November 1947 vote
on UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the creation of
a Jewish state and an Arab state in the British-ruled Palestinian
“If the coming Shabbat was November 29, 1947, would you have stayed at
home on Facebook or gone out to the streets? This coming Shabbat, July
23, 2011, is the November 29 of our generation,” she said.
The Facebook page says that all of the tent cities from across the
country will meet up at Kikar Habimah in Tel Aviv, “our personal Tahrir
Square... Only 200 meters from where the independence of the state was
The message ends by calling on everyone to take part, because “this is our country and it is time for them to give it back.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to unveil a new
plan to address the housing shortage as early as Sunday.
It is expected to include solutions for young couples, students and recently released soldiers.
Netanyahu worked on the plan in a meeting on Friday with Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz, Construction and Housing Ariel Attias and Prime
Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabai. The prime minister
instructed Steinitz and Attias to work on a plan that will soon be
presented to the public.
Around 20 demonstrators were arrested by
police after they blocked the intersection of Kaplan and Ibn Gvirol
streets in central Tel Aviv after the rally. Mounted police clashed with
the protestors and used smoke grenades to clear the junction, though no
injuries were reported in the incident.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.Click here to follow Ben Hartman on twitter