Tent cities around the country began folding up their campsites on Sunday, a day
after more than 400,000 Israelis hit the streets in the largest protest of the
seven week- old social justice movement.
Students said the move came as
the protest movement enters a phase in which the campsites are no longer
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“The tents are no longer serving any purpose, they are only a symbol. What’s
important is the people inside the tents or that were inside them. We don’t need
the campsites to show that the protest is strong,” Yuval Badolach, from the
National Union of Israeli Students, said in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Badolach spoke, a handful of students broke apart the metal frame they had used
to attach tarpaulins and stacked up chairs, electrical cables and miscellaneous
items collected over nearly two months camping on Rothschild
Badolach said that after the strong showing at the protests on
Saturday night, “we are folding up the campsite with our heads held high. We are
closing up here on a high note.
“We can continue without the tents.
People don’t need to stay in the tents anymore, people need to go back to school
and to work, and the neighbors on Rothschild need some quiet and their lives
back. We will wait to hear the Trajtenberg [Committee] recommendations and keep
on with the dialogue with the government in the meantime.”
Union of Israeli Students began packing up on Rothschild Boulevard on Sunday
afternoon, and the downtown Jerusalem tent city followed suit in the
The union’s fold-up didn’t seem part of a universal effort by
tent-city residents on Rothschild, most of whose tents looked more or less the same as the day
before, though there are fewer than a week or two ago.
Also, the tent
city is noticeably quieter and less vibrant than in weeks earlier, and
throughout the boulevard there are spots of dead grass that hadn’t seen the sun
in nearly two months.
In Jerusalem, the break-down was more striking, as
activists took down all but a dozen tents in Gan Hasus (Horse Park) in King
George Street, clearing away sagging easy chairs and mountains of forgotten
“There’s some nostalgia, but we’re not stopping the struggle,”
said Giora Wahle, who will begin studying for his bachelor’s degree at the
Hebrew University in a few weeks. “It was really exciting for the first part to
see all the tents across the country, it was clear that this came from the gut
and from the heart.”
Demonstrators in the Jerusalem agreed that right
after Saturday night’s high point, which they claimed was the largest
demonstration ever held in the capital, was the right time to pack up their
tents. “It’s the right step in order to continue the protest for the long term,”
said Yoni Blasbalg, a website designer and Labor Party activist. “For us to find
real solutions, we need to concentrate our efforts.”
Many of the central
activists in Jerusalem looked exhausted on Sunday evening, as seven weeks of
demonstrations and logistical arrangements for an urban camping village have
taken a toll.
Blasbalg said that despite roundthe- clock voluntary guard
shifts, the tent city in Jerusalem has dealt with violence and theft, and
Rothschild has also seen a number of violent incidents as well as episodes of
Gan Hasus will continue to host community meetings three
times a week, in addition to open discussions, performances and meetings of
various activist groups who made connections over the past seven weeks. On
Sunday, the community meetings, which drew hundreds of people at the onset of
the protest movement, was down to three dozen attendees.
naturally,” said Bar Peled, the spokeswoman for the Ruah Hadasha movement and
one of the central organizers of the Jerusalem tent city. She said they had not
been pressured by the municipality or police to leave the park.
who are here day and night, they understand that it’s time. The people who are
against it are the ones who aren’t here as much.”
Peled called it an
“elegant exit,” adding, “We’re not fleeing, we’re not being kicked out, we’re
folding up the tents in order to continue.”
That optimism was less
apparent at south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park tent city, surrounded by the slums of
the central bus station neighborhood, where a halfdozen African migrants and
homeless people lay passed out on couches and mattresses in the mid-day
“What happens at other campsites has nothing to do with
We are people with nothing left to lose and we aren’t going
anywhere,” a homeless woman named Rachel said.
Shlomo Ayalo, an
Ethiopian- Israeli originally from Beit Shemesh, said, “The people here aren’t
going anywhere, because they have nowhere to go. They’ve built a place here in
the back door of Israel, for everyone, people of all religions and colors who
have been forgotten about. They won’t pack up.”
Meanwhile hundreds of
highschool students held their own classes at tent cities in 15 locations around
the country Sunday morning, to discuss “social justice” and civics
The classes were part of an initiative called “We are not
sardines,” launched on Facebook earlier this summer by a group of teenagers who
said they were fed up by what they say are overcrowded classrooms and a decline
in the quality of the Israeli school system.
Shahar Izkovich, a
high-school student from Tel Mond, said the idea “was to create activities to
discuss what is the role of the youth in everything that’s taking place in the
protest... There is great importance to learning the facts about what’s
happening so you can understand the situation in your country. This is a part of