Tent organizers reflect on how to keep enthusiasm high

"No one thought it would last this long," movement's leaders say in third week of protest.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 7, 2011 04:10
3 minute read.
PROTESTERS HANG OUT in the capital’s Kikar Paris.

Jerusalem Tent 311. (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)

The chants are getting stale and robotic, the huge vats of rice are becoming monotonous, and the tents are starting to smell.

But three weeks into the tent protests, the tent city in Jerusalem can still gather more than 1,000 people for a march, and upward of 200 attend its town hall meetings each night.

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Despite more than three weeks of constant marching, chanting, and waving banners, the tent protest shows no signs of slowing down.

The Jerusalem Post caught up with two of the main organizers of the Jerusalem tent city in order to understand how they plan to keep the momentum going and the spirits high.

“On a technical level the exhaustion is definitely noticeable,” said Bar Peled, who also works for the Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit) activist group. “But the energy is constantly being renewed, because people feel that they’re part of something historic. There’s a chance that the effort that we’re making will really make a difference in the future of the country.”

The intensity, with marches almost every night, doesn’t seem sustainable. But the university students who furnish the majority of the core group of protesters are finding creative ways to study in the tents in between activities, or skipping their tests altogether.

Peled, a third-year law student at the Hebrew University, got permission from her professors to push off her 60-page thesis for an extra few weeks. Her professors, she said, were completely supportive.

“There’s a lot of support between people. Every night there are 200 people who sit and talk about why we’re here, where we’re going, and how it looks,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re part of something real.”

“There are only more and more tents and more and more people that leave their homes to go out in the streets,” said Yair Fink, who just finished his MBA at the Hebrew University and works part-time for City Councilor Rachel Azaria. “People are identifying with [the movement] more.”

For now, the lack of response on a government level is egging on the protests, rather than stifling them, said Peled. “With the passage of the national housing law this week, the government is giving us a reason to continue, until we really see a difference,” she said.

As the protests encompass more and more causes, people who wouldn’t have previously joined are becoming involved with the movement.

“We are trying to open it to entire idea of a nation with social justice,” Fink said. “We’re trying to choose all the most important issues and find the problems there are and ask what we can do about them.”

No one could have predicted that a few tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on July 14 would lead to 150,000 marching across the country a week ago, or tens of thousands marching in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Saturday night. The tent organizers themselves, when they take a moment to think about their journey, are a bit incredulous that their movement is still going strong. While saying it won’t last for months, Peled said on Thursday night she expected the protests to last for quite a few more days.

“No one that started it thought it would last so long,” she said. “But everyone inside knows it’s impossible to stop before we see results on the ground.”

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