Fault lines visible in protesters’ solidarity

Protester: How can we think about education? We have nowhere to live. The students can’t represent us because they can’t really understand us.

Jerusalem Tent 311 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Jerusalem Tent 311
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
The unity of various interests of the protest movement sweeping the country began to show small cracks this week between the families demonstrating for public housing and the students at the core of Jerusalem’s tent city.
On Saturday night in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sacher Park tent city called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s resignation, in violation of the protest’s attempt to stay nonpolitical.
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Organizers asked her to step down, and she refused to leave the stage.
After the woman, named Bracha, kept trying to grab the microphone, protest organizers surrounded her in a human shield and shuffled her off the stage while the woman continued to lash out at them physically and verbally.
“Her behavior was bordering on violence,” said protest organizer Bar Peled, of Ruah Hadasha.
The residents of the Sacher Park tent city have been quick to distance themselves from the woman, who they claim offered her services as a spokeswoman and instead piggybacked on their tent city, hijacking the opportunity in order to air her own political opinions. But they acknowledge a serious gap between the organizers of the protest movement, largely students from middle class backgrounds, and their needs, which are fundamentally different.
“We don’t want social justice or a revolution – we want apartments, people here have nowhere to live,” said Asher Dan, a tent city supporter, on Sunday in Sacher Park. “Our goal isn’t political, we’re not trying to topple the government, what we want is a solution to the apartments,” he said, adding that many of the 15 families in the Sacher Park tents are Likud members who voted for Netanyahu.
“How can we think about [free early childhood] education when we have nowhere to live?” asked Oshrit Ben- David, the leader of the tent city in Sacher Park. “The students can’t represent us, because they can’t really understand us,” she said.
The 15 families, most from the Katamonim neighborhood of Jerusalem, joined together after Ben-David was evicted from her apartment after failing to pay the rent.
Some of the families had been evicted months earlier, and were living in cramped apartments with their parents, creating tense situations. There are 20 children in the tent city, ranging from the ages of four months to teenagers.
One resident, Yafi Dan, sisterin- law of Asher Dan, returned to the tent city on Sunday afternoon after attending her oldest son’s induction ceremony into the army.
“You know where he’s going to sleep when he comes home exhausted from basic training? In a tent, here in Sacher Park,” said Asher Dan. “Who’s going to be here in October? [The students] will go back to school. They have other options, here we have no choice,” he said.
The Sacher Park tent city claims that in the sweeping calls for social justice, their very basic need of housing has been pushed down to the bottom of the list. While they acknowledge that free daycare, a decent wage for doctors, and rights for temporary workers will be beneficial, it’s harder for them to look further than the lack of a roof over their heads.
Bar Peleg, a spokeswoman for the tent city in “Gan Hasus” (Horse Park), where the majority of students are living, said their tent city was in touch with the Sacher Park tent city on a daily basis and that a new representative from their protest would be part of the greater coalition for the Jerusalem protests.
She said that in the protests’ evolution from a few tents on Rothschild to an all-encompassing social movement, everyone has had to put their specific demands on hold in favor of a greater good.
“This struggle hasn’t been about apartments for a while, and we know that,” she said.
“It has gotten much bigger, and even our requests about housing are not at the top.”
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