Tens of Thousands March Through Tel Aviv to Protest High Cost of Housing, Call on PM to Quit

Demonstrators yell slogans such as 'proper housing, legitimate prices,' 'the power is with the citizen,' and 'This generation demands housing.'

Tens of thousands of people marched in downtown Tel Aviv yesterday to protest rising housing prices, the first major demonstration in a movement calling attention to Israel's soaring cost of living.

"We are fighting for our homes!" protesters chanted as they marched through Tel Aviv from their "tent city" - set up on Rothschild Boulevard - toward the Tel Aviv Museum, where speakers called on the government to find a sustainable solution to the housing crisis.

Tel Aviv protest July 23, 2011
David Bachar

Demonstrators yelled slogans such as "proper housing, legitimate prices," "the power is with the citizen," and "This generation demands housing." Some of the marchers called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation.

While politicians were not invited to address the crowd, several Knesset members could be found among the demonstrators, including Ilan Ghilon (Meretz ), Dov Khenin (Hadash ) and Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash ), Nino Abesadze (Kadima ), and Rachel Adatto (Kadima ).

"I'm proud of the vast number of participants, especially the young people who give me great hope for real change," Barakeh said. Barakeh added that he hoped that the demonstration marked "the beginning of a process to replace the current government with a government that is socially sensitive and has a perception of true peace."

While most of the demonstrators at Tel Aviv's protest yesterday were young, a number of elderly people joined the protest as well in order to show solidarity against the high cost of living in Israel.

Indeed, the grassroots movement is drawing attention to economic frustration among Israelis from all factions of society, and the past few days have seen dozens of organizations and individuals join the ongoing protest movement, including youth groups, representatives of the Haredi movement, women's organizations, doctors and social workers.

Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and income gaps in the developed world, and prices for homes, food and fuel have risen in recent months.

"We recognize the distress," Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Channel 10 yesterday. "It is a fundamental problem."