At five in the afternoon yesterday, Rene Backman, chief foreign affairs editor of the Nouvel Observateur, stood and watched the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard in amazement. He had asked me to accompany him to try and explain "what the fuss was about."
He arrived in Israel last week, and the tents had been up to Balfour Street. In a week, they had made it to Allenby.
"Unbelievable. Unbelievable," he said.
No one among those crowding Habima Square could tell Backman that he had expected that such a protest would break out, or explain what exactly he was witnessing.
"Wait," said one of the young activists sitting at the steps of a coffee shop in the square. "The stroller parade will soon pass through here."
At six, when the first strollers passed through the square, it was still unclear what was about to happen. They are coming from Ben-Zion Boulevard, the activist said, and we went to watch. Such a sight had not been seen around here for years, if at all: an enormous curving snake of young men and women, pushing strollers with toddlers, mothers breast feeding infants while they walked, fathers with children on their shoulders, all carrying yellow balloons.
Ben-Zion Boulevard was full of people from King George Street all the way to the square. The strollers had stickers on them: "I want social justice," and "Who cares about security if I have no money for daycare."
Two small girls in flowery sun dresses, skipping in the boulevard, called out in rhythm, "We-lfa-re Sta-te! We-lfa-re Sta-te!" A father explained to his small son what the tents are all about. The boy wanted to stay but it was time to go home for dinner.
"Ah, you have a home?" joked someone in a nearby tent. "We rent," apologized the father. "Don't worry about it man, I was kidding," said the guy in the tent.
He is from Bat Yam, arrived on Rothschild yesterday and is having a good time with his friends, together with all the Tel Aviv "nerds," he said.
Backman, familiar with French demonstrations organized by the well-oiled machinery of powerful unions, which often clash violently with the police, was impressed and a little confused by the pleasant atmosphere of peace and love that he saw on some parts of Rothschild Boulevard.
Yesterday, those in the tents gave out flowers to the residents of the street and asked their forgiveness for the continued bother.
It is not clear who is organizing what, if at all, but nonetheless everything is being organized amazingly rapidly. Someone unloads dozens of large fans from a truck and hands them out along the boulevard. Two people brought popsicles for the children, and a third contributed 20 tents.
Authors and poets gathered for an evening to read to the children and express their support for the adults, and stayed for a while to talk.
All the guests appeared very excited by the tent city. Something is suddenly happening. Even if it remains unclear what it is, there is no doubt that it is something real. As if, someone said, some sort of geyser has exploded all at once.
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