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.
RELATED:Tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv for affordable housing
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
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.”