(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Thousands of mothers and fathers marched down a boulevard in central Tel Aviv on
Wednesday to protest what they said was the unsustainable cost of raising
children in Israel.
Chanting “Who cares about missiles when there isn’t
money for diapers,” and “What’s the point of security when I can’t afford
daycare?” the parents pushed strollers and walked their young children up
Ben-Zion Boulevard to the intersection outside the Habima National Theater,
where they were met by tent city protesters.
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The protest march was
organized on Facebook by a group of six mothers, who described the difficultly
of raising children in a country with skyrocketing real estate prices and
nurseries – that charge, on average, NIS 3,000 per month per child – as well as
the high cost of formula and diapers, and the number of school-vacation days
that require a babysitter.
The Tel Aviv protest was part of a nationwide
series of marches held by parents in Rishon Lezion, Givatayim, Holon, Modi’in,
Ariel, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Herzliya, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Rehovot, Haifa, Ness
Zionna, Sderot, Beersheba and Petah Tikva.
The organizers list as their
demands a law that will make education free from the age of three months
(currently it is from age three), price regulation for products including
diapers and formula, an extension of maternity leave, an end to the extra fee
for strollers on public transport, equal pay for mothers and further tax credits
One parent taking part was Eli Elbaz, 35, of Petah Tikvah,
the father of two boys aged four and 18-months.
“We can’t make ends meet
because each month we spend NIS 4,500 on daycare, which is almost my wife’s
entire salary,” said Elbaz.
He said he works as an electronic engineer
and makes an “okay salary” of about NIS 8,000 per month, but still has to ask
his parents for around NIS 500 per month for groceries.
He laughed when
asked if he is ever able to set aside any of his monthly income to save for his
children’s future post-secondary education.
Another parent, 33-year-old
Noga Cohen, expressed similar frustration at the price of raising her
two-and-a-half-year- old son.
“I make NIS 5,000 per month and day care is
NIS 3,000. The problem is that education is free only after age five or six.
This is the most important issue,” she said.
Cohen, who lives in Tel
Aviv, said her life wouldn’t be any cheaper if she lived outside the city,
“because there you need a car to get everywhere and that would be thousands of
shekels in additional expenses per month. So people who say it would be
cheaper in the periphery are wrong.”