Jerusalem Rent Protest 311.
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
After meeting late into Sunday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet again with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias Monday in order to formulate a plan to ease housing restrictions, Army Radio reported.
The meetings Sunday night and Monday morning came on the tail of mass protests in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem, the latter of which saw at least 1,000 demonstrators marching on the Knesset, perturbed over the soaring cost of housing. As part of a larger state-housing plan, the three agreed Sunday to provide benefits to couples who purchase their first apartment and to increase funding for student dormitories.
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It was also agreed upon to continue with the establishment of national housing committees, adding that these committees will include an "affordable housing" component, Army Radio said.
Following a week of tent protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, nearly a thousand
demonstrators furious over the soaring cost of housing marched to the Knesset on
Sunday night with a dozen tents hoisted on their shoulders.
nation demands social justice!” the demonstrators packed up their temporary
camp-out in Kikar Tzahal, next to the Old City Walls, and moved their tents next
to the entrance to the Knesset.
They plan to stay the night in front of
the Knesset, and on Monday afternoon will move to a permanent camp in Gan Hasus
(Horse Park) on King George Street, where they will stay until “there is
meaningful change,” said Sivan Vardi, the director of the Jerusalem activist
organization Ruah Hadasha (New Spirit).
“Until we get the things we need,
we are going to stay in the streets,” she said.
On Monday morning,
demonstrators will build a fake brick wall and use their tents to block the
entrance to the Knesset, representing the “impenetrable wall” that the
government has put around affordable housing. The gesture is intended to
symbolically prevent Knesset members from attending a vote on Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s National Housing Committee Law.
“This is the first
time the middle class is waking up and demanding to be able to live here,” said
Rachel Azaria, a city councilwoman from the Yerushalmim party. “It’s not only
about housing, it’s much larger,” Azaria continued, as she marched with her
husband and three daughters on Sunday night.
“I have no money to pay for
rent, [my] salary keeps going down and the rent goes up – it’s impossible to
live here,” said 27-year-old Itai Abuav, a political science student at the
Hebrew University, echoing the sentiments of hundreds of the demonstrators.
The protesters on Sunday night were almost
exclusively people in their 20s trying to balance school and work with paying
“I could be the dad of almost everyone here,” said Haim
Ben-Ami, a 59-year-old former high-school principal who was one of the only
demonstrators over age 30. Ben-Ami has been looking for an apartment for his
daughter for the past few months and was discouraged by what he has
“Finally, the students got out of their apathy and are actually
doing something,” he said. He added that most parents were embarrassed to show
up at the protest because it meant that they were struggling to help their
children pay rent.
Ben-Ami, who now works in real estate, after retiring
from education, said that since the tent protests started two weeks ago, rents
have actually increased by hundreds of shekels as landlords in Jerusalem learned
how much students pay to live in Tel Aviv.
Former Jerusalemite Amir Ben-
Cohen, who moved to south Tel Aviv because the prices were lower than Jerusalem,
said the small number of demonstrators on Sunday night was because people were
“simply exhausted” from the past week of protests, including the large
demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, which attracted upwards of 20,000
“Yesterday was a critical mass of people,” said Ben-Cohen, a
29-yearold anthropology student at the Hebrew University. “Yesterday, there was
optimism; we really felt there was something changing.”
was detained after trying to jump the fence in front of the Knesset, but the
demonstration was much tamer than Saturday’s Tel Aviv march, when 43 people were
arrested for tussling with police as the event broke up. Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.