‘Revolt over rent’ launched in Tel Aviv

Fed up with high housing prices around the country, hundreds set up tent city, vow to stay until government presents a solution.

Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
Tel Aviv residents protest high housing costs
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.
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.
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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.”
Leef, 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.
By 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.
Late 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 near.
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 activist” set.
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.
On 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.
Kfar Saba 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.”
He 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.”
On 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 justified.”
Huldai’s statement followed an earlier announcement by the city that it would not allow the protest to take place.
In 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 the government.”
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.
MK 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.
He called 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.”