From Vicky (Knafo) to Daphne (Leef)

The housing protest, which has been on the public agenda for several weeks, reminds those who forgot that Bibi is still Bibi.

DAPHNE LEEF, (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The housing protest, which has been on the public agenda for several weeks, reminds those who forgot that Bibi is still Bibi. A short reminder: Go back to 2003, when he wanted to harm one of the most vulnerable sectors of Israeli society – single moms. Then, as today, the symbol of the protest was a woman – Vicky Knafo. But then Knafo, a hard-working woman from a small town in the periphery, represented the lower class. Eight years later, a Tel Aviv single working woman finds herself in the spot once occupied by Vicky Knafo. The distance from Mitzpe Ramon to Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv has never been shorter.
For me, as a woman, it is heart-warming to see that the feminine voice has raised the flag of social protest a second time.
One can say that this is a woman-style revolt – one that encourages attention, listening and open dialog. This is a strong protest conducted quietly. However, it is important to remember that the leader of the tent protest is actually the message, and the message is despair at the nonending burden the state levies on the same sector of society that bears all the social, security and economic burdens.
In 2003, the veil was removed to uncover Bibi’s real nature. Then, he chose to slash the meager benefits paid to Knafo and others like her. At present, he is jeopardizing people who do not depend on state benefits, the people of Israel’s middle class, the backbone of its society, who try to earn an honest living by working long hours. Knafo and Daphne Leef are both working women who got lost in the labyrinth of work, childcare and homemaking on one hand and economic problems, taxes, childcare and education/health expenditures on the other, not to mention housing. Thus, the lives of both are characterized by despair.
These women are the main victims of Bibi’s heavy-handed policy, but he refuses to listen to them. Perhaps he disparages that voice, or does not understand its importance. Leef and Knafo have been paying a physical, social, mental and emotional price for taking part in the struggle to change the face of Israeli society.
Now, in the overall medley of communication spins and arguments against the Rothschild Boulevard protest, the “periphery spin” has appeared, arguing, even demanding, that these young people leave Tel Aviv and move to the periphery.
This is a demagogic argument, and contradicts the position of Bibi’s government about “natural growth” in the settlements.
Do not Tel Aviv residents have a right to “settle” in their home town? And what about the children of settlers, who wish to make their home in the settlements where they were born? It is ironic that the common denominator between Vicky Knafo – a single mom from Mitzpe Ramon – and Daphne Leef – a young woman from Tel Aviv, is Binyamin Netanyahu and his heavy-handed economic policy. Both women have experienced the harsh obtuseness of the Treasury, and its unwillingness to provide for the citizens of the state – all of them.
There is an apprehension that the tent protest will end like Knafo’s – with nothing.
If the backbone of the middle class is broken, the social and economic repercussions will be enormous – Leef, contrary to Knafo, and like many of her generation, can easily leave the country. She and others who have lost any hope of building a home in Israel will do it elsewhere! Netanyahu, who wishes to be perceived as the advocate of National Zionism, has actually been preventing the settling of the country. He who wishes to appear a Zionist is in fact preventing the building of homes in Israel.
Sadly, it is possible that Knafo’s situation was actually better than Leef’s – Knafo dreamt only of being able to cope financially with everyday life, while Leef is dreaming of a roof over her head…

The writer is an advocate and the founder/executive director of New Family Organization.