Protesters from TA tent city hold torchlight rally

March ends at high profile Gindi Towers luxury complex, billed as a preview of larger protest slated to take place over the weekend.

Tel Aviv housing price protest 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tel Aviv housing price protest 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Hundreds of protesters from the Tel Aviv tent city took part in a torch-lit march through the city’s center on Thursday evening, ahead of a mass protest march and rally planned for Saturday night at the Tel Aviv Museum.
The march set off from the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard and continued to the Gindi Towers luxury complex on Rehov Ibn Gvirol.
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Daphni Leef, the 26-year-old freelance filmmaker who started the tent city protest that began on July 14, and quickly spread across the country, said the torchlight parade was meant to be a preview of Saturday’s rally.
Leef said buses have been organized to bring protesters from tent cities across Israel, who will converge on Rothschild, before marching to the Tel Aviv Museum at 9 p.m. Police and the municipality have approved the march, and no politicians will be invited or allowed to speak at the rally, she said.
“It’s a peoples’ struggle for all of the public and has crossed all lines, because there are some things that are above all arguments,” Leef said.
When asked what she would do if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called and asked to speak at the rally, she said “he should come to listen. This is not for politicians. This is a collective dialogue.”
By Thursday, the tent city on Rothschild, the epicenter of the protest movement, stretched past the intersection with Rehov Sheinkin street toward Rehov Allenby. The crowd was a bit thinner during the midday heat and there appeared to be less of a media presence than in previous days.
There was, however, a cameraman from Channel 2 who left the scene after he was accosted by a pair of protesters who shouted slurs about the Israeli media and tried to smash his camera.
On Thursday morning, a group of around 15 students from Tel Aviv University and the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan temporarily took over the work site at a luxury tower being built at the corner of Frishman and Dizengoff.
One of them, Hagar Yisraeli, 26, from the University of Tel Aviv, said the students climbed to the top of the building and chanted slogans in support of low-income housing, and managed to stop all work at the site for two hours.
“We aren’t against luxury construction, but we believe that if they are building these luxury towers than they should also build for young people,” she said.
In Jerusalem, students blocked the junction of Shlomzion Hamalka and Shlomo Hamelech in the center of the city for around 20 minutes before they were dispersed by police.
On Thursday afternoon, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat met with the leaders of the Jerusalem tent city, in Kikar Tzahal, next to the walls of the Old City, and expressed the city’s support for the demonstration. He said the municipality had been working for two years on affordable housing solutions.
“I call on the government to listen to the young people and to approve the initiatives of the Jerusalem Municipality for apartments for young people,” Barkat said.
He was referring to the city’s 20- 20-20 program, which would require contractors who are building more than 20 apartments to sell 20 percent of the units at 20 percent below market value. This initiative is set to be discussed in two weeks at the Interior Ministry’s District Planning and Building Committee and in the Finance Ministry.
On Tuesday, the municipality told the tent city that while it supported the demonstration, it asked them to move to another area on Thursday afternoon, presumably because the area is very visible for tourists.
On Thursday evening, the demonstrators said they were still in discussions with the municipality, but they refused to leave the area. There were still approximately 20 tents in Kikar Tzahal on Thursday evening.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, a group of religious Jews and Arabs announced plans to create a tent city outside the Mount Meron junction in the Galilee.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.