Irate over soaring real estate prices in Tel Aviv and elsewhere across
the country, hundreds of people set up a tent city over the weekend at
the northern end of Rothschild Boulevard, and vowed not to break camp
until the government presents a solution to the rising cost of putting a
roof over one’s head.
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The protest was started by Tel Aviv
resident Daphni Leef, 25, who 10 days ago created a Facebook page
calling for like-minded people to pitch their tents on Rothschild on
Thursday evening and join the call for cheaper apartments.
Leef told The Jerusalem Post
on Saturday evening that she opened the Facebook page because “I didn’t
see any reason to continue spending more than half of my paycheck on
rent each month.
And I’m a young person, without kids, I work five or six days a week and I still can’t afford rent.”
a freelance filmmaker, said the movement has reached an “all or
nothing” point. “Either something revolutionary will happen because of
what we’re doing here, or there will simply be no solution and the
problem will get worse.”
The tent city protest comes a few weeks
after a Facebook campaign to boycott cottage cheese attracted more than
100,000 followers and drew the attention of politicians and captains of
industry alike. Like the “Cottage Cheese Intifada,” the new protest
appears to be an entirely grassroots affair that took wing on Facebook,
addressing an issue that directly affects the pocketbooks of Israelis.
Friday afternoon, around three dozen tents were set up in the
boulevard’s pedestrian midway, as was a “living room” complete with
mattresses and couches.
Ahead of Friday night dinner, a line of
tables was covered with bottles of wine, cakes and heaping Tupperware
containers of food donated by local restaurants and sympathetic
residents, as well as crates of fruit and vegetables piled high in the
humid Tel Aviv heat. The tent city soon featured a “kitchen,” complete
with plastic tubs for dishwashing and a portable gas stove where
volunteers cooked dinner.
The tent city presents some logistical
issues, but participants have so far managed to use the nearby restrooms
at the Habimah Theater parking lot, and electricity has been
jerry-rigged from extension cords running into nearby buildings.
on Friday afternoon, a group of Bnei Akiva students from a Tel Aviv
yeshiva joined the protest and led prayers and singing as Shabbat drew
Perhaps owing to the cooler weather after sunset, and the
passing crowds of Friday night revelers making their way to central Tel
Aviv bars, by midnight the crowd had swelled into the hundreds, and
several participants stood around a karaoke machine as passing drivers
honked their approval.
Attendance was relatively low, however,
and for the most part lacked the familiar faces of Tel Aviv protests;
most of those present did not appear to be part of the “professional
A similar, though far smaller tent city was set up
in Jerusalem’s Kikar Zion on Thursday night, and on the movement’s
Facebook page plans were announced for a similar tent city to be set up
in Holon next Thursday evening, outside the Meditech building.
Saturday, the National Students Union announced that it is joining the
protest, and said that beginning on Sunday, students will set up protest
tents in Beersheba and at Rupin College north of Netanya. In addition,
they announced that tents will be set up at the Beit Berl College in the
Sharon region and at Tel Hai College in Kiryat Shmona.
resident Shahar Abud, head of Beit Berl College’s student union, said
on Friday that he and other protesters would stay at the Rothschild tent
city as long as possible, with the eventual goal of joining other
groups of tent city protesters from across the country and holding a
similar protest in Jerusalem outside the Knesset.
Abud said the
solution to the housing crisis is for “the government to get involved in
the market in order to increase the number of apartments.
The situation can’t continue wherein the number of families [in Israel] is higher than the number of available apartments.”
said that the issue is of particular importance to him because “people
are always talking about the ‘Tel Aviv bubble,’ but the bubble is all
over the country. The only places that are left for young people to live
are in poorer neighborhoods or farther-away places.
And even then you need to work fulltime to pay for it.”
Thursday afternoon, the Tel Aviv Municipality announced that it would
issue a permit to allow the demonstration, with Mayor Ron Huldai
announcing on his Facebook page that the protest is “appropriate and
Huldai’s statement followed an earlier announcement by the city that it would not allow the protest to take place.
his Facebook post, Huldai laid blame for the rising housing prices on
the government, saying it “controls the two main bodies that are
influencing the prices of housing, land and construction planning, and
therefore, when looking for the reason for the climbing prices, we must
check the policies, or more accurately, the lack of policy on behalf of
Huldai visited the Rothschild site on Friday, and was met by insults and boos from a small number of the protesters.
A similar greeting was extended to MK Miri Regev (Likud) during her visit, prompting her to leave the tent city.
Isaac Herzog (Labor) visited the protest later on Friday, as did MK
Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), both of whom seemed to receive a warm if not
enthusiastic reception. Herzog said he supported the protest because of
the creation of more and more “poor ghettos” across the country as the
government refuses to intervene in the housing crisis.
for greater government intervention in the market, saying “people cannot
afford houses and the prices have gone up in an insane fashion because
the government allows for new building projects without setting any
limits on the prices of housing.”
Some passersby were more
skeptical of the demonstration, including middle- aged Malkah Yahalomi
from Holon, who said young peoples’ insistence on living in Tel Aviv and
only in Tel Aviv is part of the problem.
She added, though, that
“there is no justification whatsoever for these prices. The fact that
they don’t want to leave Tel Aviv is a problem, but why do they
[landlords] keep raising the prices? It’s simply impossible like this.”