Planning a party while worrying about future in tent city

"The more the protest grows, the more strength we have."

Tent City 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tent City 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Reut Romano had her doubts about the ‘rent revolt’ centered on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, until she saw the numbers kept growing and the spotlight wasn’t falling from the central Tel Aviv tent city.
“I was very skeptical of this at the beginning, but now it’s only getting larger,” said Romano. “I thought it would be broken much earlier, but it keeps going. The more it grows, the more strength we’ll have and the harder it will be to dismiss us.”
She added, “we’ve almost reached Sheinkin and we’ll be at Herzl [Street] soon. If we don’t take part in this we’ll lose.
If we fill this up all the way to Herzl – they won’t be able to say that nothing is happening.”
The 28-year-old Givatayim resident was sitting at the tail end of the tent city, in one of the last tents that had sprouted up on the Boulevard’s pedestrian walkway on Tuesday, next to a koi pond only meters away from Sheinkin Street.
She and her husband, Nati, were eating popsicles and chatting with passersby as they planned a party for later Tuesday evening outside their tent.
Romano said she and her husband came to the boulevard because they are fed up with the high cost of living in Israel, and felt that they had to do their part to make sure the protest wouldn’t diminish into the dog days of summer.
“It’s not just the housing issue: there’s the prices of the food we buy in the supermarket, the water we use – everything about the way that we live needs to change. We want people to start to understand that everything is rotten. And we need to change this so people stop running from Israel. I don’t want to, but if I was accepted for work somewhere abroad I would.”
Romano, a 10th-generation Israeli, took issue with the way she said the protest is being portrayed in the media, arguing that it isn’t a left-wing or right-wing issue, and it doesn’t belong to the just-back-from- India crowd that seems to make up a large portion of the participants.
“I’m not a leftist,” she added.
“I stopped being a leftist when I joined the army. I realized that being left-wing isn’t the solution. There is some sort of middle that we must get to and pass laws that help us and get rid of ones that don’t help us, but I don’t think this is connected to either one side or the other.”
Romano, who, ironically, works as a commercial real estate agent, said that she feels that as the protest spreads, and more and more tent-cities are started across Israel, the way the issue is viewed will change.
“The more that it expands and the less it’s just the shantyand the hippie-types, the more people will take it seriously,” she said.
Just then, a passerby with a megaphone came by and announced that dinner was served at the tent-city’s “kitchen” next to Habima square. Her friend, Eden Yablonka, then strolled up with a few beers and said that they had been informed by a woman living in an apartment on Rothschild that they are welcome to come upstairs and use her bathroom, or take a shower whenever they like.
They turned to wave at the upscale-apartment building and moments later a middleaged woman walked by and handed the Romanos a plate of cookies and cake.
For Yablonka, an unemployed university student, the location of the two tents he and the Romanos set up could not be better.
“Look at this: we have shade, our own personal lake, free electricity – we’ve picked the best spot here,” he said.
Yablonka said that he had set up his own organization with a group of friends called “haezrachim” (the citizens) and was weighing how long he’ll stay on the Boulevard, as well as what the nascent organization’s actions will be.
“In Israel, we’re idiots about everything – about how the country is run, how we live, everything. It doesn’t make sense that in Europe people are living like kings, and we live like we do here,” Yablonka added.
When asked why he thinks the nationwide protest is only taking place now, Yablonka replied, “I’ve been telling people since 2006, and only now they’re starting to open their eyes. I guess we’re just in a good phase – there aren’t any piguim [terror attacks] so people are starting to talk about other stuff.”
In the coming half hour the Romanos and Yablonka would set up a four-walled structure that was equal parts sukkah and camping tent, and field calls about the party set for after sundown.
Reut said her friends are bringing a DJ they know to spin records until 11 p.m., after which she said they’ll all put on bluetooths connected to the same channel, and dance silently so as not to violate any noise ordinances.
DJs, free cookies and koipond views aside, when asked what her solution to Israel’s cost of living is, Reut was dismissive – or at the least, a bit resigned to lack of solutions.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m here to give solutions; there are people who we elected who are supposed to have solutions.
But I think it’s gotten to the point where we need to stop being skeptical about things,” Reut said.