Activists stand near tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv March 1, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An echo of the summer 2011 housing protests returned to Tel Aviv on Sunday night, as a few dozen protesters set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard to call for affordable housing, a lower cost of living, and greater social equality.
Like the 2011 protests, it started with a Facebook post. A little over a week ago, Shay Cohen, a father of two from Givatayim, set up a Facebook page calling for a tent protest on Rothschild Boulevard Sunday night.
The Facebook page was called “I'm turning 40 and don't have an apartment,” and Cohen said Sunday night he called the protest because “these elections need to be about these issues – about housing, the cost of living, social issues.”
Cohen, the founder and director of the organization Koah L'ovdim, said he can’t afford an apartment in Israel unless he leaves the Center.
By around 8 p.m. Sunday there were 20 or so tents set up at the end of Rothschild, a series of speakers and several journalists.
The people attending the protest represented a wide variety of causes, including the push for more public housing, the fight against corruption in the public sector, and greater assistance for the disabled.
Cohen said that a number of the protesters planned to sleep in Habimah Square at the bottom of Rothschild on Sunday night, and that on Monday they would decide on their next moves.
“We will stay here until we achieve our goals,” Cohen told Army Radio when asked how long the protest would last.
The Tel Aviv Municipality sent out a statement on Sunday night saying that it places great importance on the use of public space for protesting, but that “with that, the public sphere is for the use of all of the public, and this requires a balance between freedom of expression and other rights.”
It added that the tent protest was arranged with the support of, and in coordination with, city hall, and for a set and limited amount of time.
The protest over housing – a key issue in the campaign leading up to the March 17 election – comes four days after State Comptroller Joseph Shapira published a report finding “significant deficiencies” that have pushed up housing prices, a problem dogging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid for reelection.
Pollsters see public anger at high living costs as a major factor for voters in the general election.