Residents across Israel move into tents to protest steep housing costs

“The goal is, first and foremost, to stop this madness,” said Golan, a resident of Pardes Hana.

In Pardes Hana, protesters reside in tents near Kikar Shmoneh, a main thoroughfare in the city. (photo credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)
In Pardes Hana, protesters reside in tents near Kikar Shmoneh, a main thoroughfare in the city.
(photo credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)

A series of demonstrations are springing up across the country to protest the high cost of housing in Israel. Residents in Netanya, Beersheba and Pardess Hanna (and more cities are expected to join in the coming days) are leaving their apartments – in some cases, even forgoing renewal on their leases – in favor of residing in tents in main public areas to raise awareness of the issue.

In Pardess Hanna, a cluster of 12 tents occupied by families and individuals has popped up adjacent to a main thoroughfare over the course of the last week. Signs leaning against trees and hung from street lights decry the exaggerated expenses affecting Israeli residents. Protesters can be seen engaging in excited discussion with one another, resting beside their tents and playing with their young children.

“The goal is, first and foremost, to stop this madness,” said Golan, one of the compound’s residents who did not want his last name used. He noted that they plan to demonstrate in a variety of ways, including after-school activities for children, open-air music sessions, and a public Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Shabbat) ceremony. The goal, he said, is “that people will see and get the idea to come out to the streets, to come and commit to this cause.”

Golan explained that the steep housing costs are an issue affecting everyone, but it can be particularly damning for younger people without a lot of money.

“I could call my mom and ask her to send me money in order to make rent, she has money – but that’s hers,” he said. “Why should I be in a situation that requires me to take her money to pay rent?”

''We certainly are - and you? Housing protest 2022'' (credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)''We certainly are - and you? Housing protest 2022'' (credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)

Keeping up with population growth

“There haven’t been enough housing starts over time.”

Prof. Danny Ben-Shachar, Coller School of Management, Tel Aviv University

In recent years, real estate supply has fallen quite short of demand. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, government municipalities were reluctant to approve new housing constructions, leading to only a fraction of the housing units required to meet the demand being built in recent years.

Even now, the government is racing to catch up on months of stunted growth, but the gap is wide, and it takes time to build a house. Exacerbating the issue is that before new construction can even begin, the required land needs to be approved by the government, which can be a lengthy process on its own.

“There haven’t been enough housing starts over time,” said Prof. Danny Ben-Shachar from the Coller school of Management at Tel Aviv University. “Israel’s population growth is the highest among OECD countries, meaning that in order to fill the needs for new households, there needs to be around 55,000 to 60,000 new houses a year, and that needs to be continuous. [Housing] is not continuously, stably rising with the needs of the population.”

“We’re all suffering from the same problem,” Golan said. “People say ‘it’ll be alright’ – it won’t. If we don’t stop this now, and if we don’t actively work to make it alright, then our children will definitely not be alright. It’ll only get worse.”