July 27: Readers react to the tent cities, housing protests

The lost generation Derfner describes is nothing close to lost. In fact, it is actually on to something very significant.

Tel Aviv housing prices tent protest 311  (photo credit: Channel 10)
Tel Aviv housing prices tent protest 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Sir, – At last, the people woke up (“Tent protest goes mobile as 1,000 demonstrators march to Knesset,” July 25)!
Rents are far too inflated for students, for middle class people with large families, for seniors who live on small, fixed pensions. No, not all seniors are rich, own homes and have children to support them.
In many cities and towns there are no two- or three-room apartments being built. Why? So that the cities and the builders can reap the benefits? All residential structures being built now should include both large apartments and small, inexpensive ones. We do not want to create poor and rich neighborhoods.
We need a strong, integrated society.
None of us wants to go to the hospital, lie in the corridors and be tended by an exhausted, overworked and underpaid physician. Our food prices are inflated. We pay more for products made here by us than for the ones we import. One pays less to vacation abroad than here in Israel.
Does any of this make sense?
Sir, – As an architect practicing privately in Israel since 1961, I was amazed when I found that zoning regulations for a particular plot of land pertained not only to the total area built, like in South Africa, but also to the number of units (apartments, hotel rooms, etc.). In the numerous apartments we designed in 50 years, no small units were ever included.
In recent years I designed the division of large apartments into two or three smaller ones – of course, not legally. Let the limitation on density, or number of units, be canceled and we will see small apartments mushrooming everywhere, as they are more profitable, especially for rentals.
Sir, – I am so happy that the public is trying to do something about landlords who rip off tenants with no consequences whatsoever.
Landlords know that once an apartment is vacated, another tenant is waiting in line – and, even nicer, is willing to pay a higher rent. It is a disgusting state of affairs.
I believe that to rectify this problem, landlords should be made to pay an annual license fee in order to rent out an apartment.
In addition, the property should have to pass a thorough inspection by an experienced city official before it is rented out.
The property should have adequate sanitation, screened windows that open, hot and cold water, and in general be livable.
A relative of mine has been living with his wife and four small children in a run-down 3.5-room apartment for six years. Six years ago the monthly rent was NIS 3,200 ($800). Now they are paying NIS 4,200; at the current exchange rate this is $1,400.
The family is going to move out soon and the next victims will move in. The landlord will apparently charge them NIS 4,800.
Sir, – The students and other young people protesting high rentals are only pretending to be concerned for the public good.
They are concerned only about themselves.
They should be protesting against their own parents, who chose capitalism as the way of life in Israel. This is what capitalism is all about! Get as much money as you can and trod on the poor.
I guarantee you, when these young folks finish their studies and become successful, they will buy an apartment as an investment and will protest against rent control.
Sir, – I agree that the cost of housing and rentals in Israel has gotten out of hand, but in a free society we are governed by supply and demand.
The building of homes in Judea and Samaria was stopped two years ago by US President Barack Obama and has not resumed yet. The consequence is that many people who would have moved into that housing were obliged to compete on the open market for fewer homes.
I wonder how many of those complaining of the high cost of housing and rent applauded the freeze in Judea and Samaria, and even in Jerusalem. In addition, how many of them demonstrated against the repatriation of illegal migrants – who are obviously living somewhere – and in favor of bringing to Israel Ethiopian Christians, which will just exacerbate the problem.
Sir, – Bravo to the brave young people demonstrating for affordable housing and against a government whose raison d’etre seems to be just to hang on to power at all costs.
Some 30 years ago I took part in demonstrations for changing the electoral system because I believed – and still do – that the proportional system creates a coalition of small parties that can override the majority. A small but loyal group of Israelis joined our mainly “Anglo” organization but, by and large, the Israeli public did not identify with our objectives: accountability to the electorate and a majority vote for a political party that can implement its policies.
That is one reason I am so proud of this outburst for a social agenda that would take care of the needs of the majority, and not just of those with power and wealth.
Sir, – While the housing and cottage cheese protesters are to be commended for taking to the streets to highlight problems attributable to a culture that promotes profit and ignores social needs, any success will be negligible.
In our society, there would appear to be only one effective slogan: We will not vote for you.
Unfortunately, past experience with so-called centrist parties, with the tendency of their MKs to be seduced by the trappings of power, is far from encouraging.
Sir, – The tent protesters are demanding rent control. But only for themselves. They couldn’t care less for half the Jews in Israel, the lower classes that can’t afford rent-controlled apartments or even food. The protesters are very upper class.
Let’s have a follow-up investigation in 10 years. When these protesters get on their feet, have a family and own their own home – but inherit an apartment they decide to rent out – they for sure will be protesting very loudly against rent control.
Sir, – Wow, did Larry Derfner read this one wrong (“Israel’s lost generation,” Rattling the Cage, July 21)!
The lost generation he describes is nothing close to lost. In fact, it is actually on to something very significant.
I have been traveling the country for the past two months as we establish branches in every city for Am Shalem, the new social movement led by Shas MK Haim Amsalem.
Whether I am in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mevaseret Zion, Petah Tikva or Lod, and whether I am meeting with secular, traditional or religious Jews, I hear the same message: We are sick and tired of hearing about the Palestinian issue. It is a stalemate.
While we have been told for decades that this is the most pressing issue, the country has been decaying from the inside.
It is time to start focusing on internal issues and building a proud Jewish state. If this means there will be wars, then there will be wars. At least we will have something precious worth fighting for.
There is no greater sign that bright things are ahead than when the younger generation focuses on internal and social issues, and will not let itself be distracted by those who rattle the cage over the Palestinian issue. So kudos to what Derfner dismisses as the “wingless” and “lost” generation.
DOV LIPMAN Jerusalem
The writer is national field director for Am Shalem