Israel’s great “Camp Out” rent protest attracts hundreds
Echoing the recent protests in Egypt and Spain, it is the turn of Israeli youth to take to the streets and start camping to draw attention to the excessive cost of rents in Tel Aviv and other major population centres of the territory. An emergency session of the Israeli Cabinet is convened to try to deal with the situation.
Waking up one day to find notification that the building where she lives is due to be demolished and replaced, Daphni Leef decided to start the camping protest after realising that the cost of housing had become unaffordable on the open market. “It’s your right to have something as basic as a roof over your head,” she told ynetnews on Thursday.
Leef told The Jerusalem Post 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.”*
Facebook once more became the tool of choice to mobilise people and after setting up an event to camp at Habima Square news started to spread and similar events were arranged in other towns and cities.
The event received support from high level endorsers such as the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, who wrote on his own facebook page, “The tent protest is justified and worthy. The government of Israel is knowingly – as an ideology – leaving the social issues up to the forces of the market. There’s no planning, no long-term vision, and the decisions are all improvised.”
The National Students’ Union have also come on board with camps being set up in Beersheba and at Rupin College.
These events have caused concern all the way up to the top of the Israeli Government, with a meeting of the cabinet taking place today.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister said, *“I am aware of the rent crisis. I am certainly aware of the housing crisis … We are a small country. We have a very large demand for apartments, both for purchase and for rental, and there are not enough apartments.”*
He said the government would tackle the “insane bureaucracies” that were to blame for the dearth of new construction, according to the UK Guardian newspaper.
Pressure on housing stock in the largest cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is high, whereas housing is available in other areas. The problem is that these areas are less appealing to those looking.
Housing minister, Ariel Attias told Ma’ariv newspaper, *”These people sitting in tents here in Tel Aviv don’t want to live in the periphery. The fact of the matter is that there is only a shortage in areas of high demand. Another fact is that there are plenty of apartments available at much lower prices [outside Tel Aviv]. The world does not begin and end in Tel Aviv.”*
So far the demands of the protesters only go so far as to deal with the housing crisis, yet there are those in the protests who would like to see a Spanish-style revolution take place with popular assemblies gathering demands for more deeper change and a connection being made to the social movements that are spreading in many other parts of Europe and the Middle East.