Eran Wolkowski
Photo by Eran Wolkowski
Text size

My heart goes out to all those protesting rental prices who have pitched their tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem, Kfar Sava and Kiryat Shmona. I would gladly join them, but my mother won’t let me.

She threatened that if I dare join those criminals, as she put it, she’ll revoke my inheritance and change her will, and will give the two apartments − one on Rashi Street, corner of Ahad Ha’am, where she lives, and Grandmother Perla’s apartment on Rothschild, corner of Nahmani, where I live − to Tel Aviv University, to be used for cheap student housing.

“Then we’ll see what kind of altruist you are, you idiot,” she told me. And in her anger she added, “That boy is living in the clouds, just like his father. He wants to save the world at my expense.”

“All the mothers are letting their children go, except for you. Even Itzik’s mother,” I whined.
“The others don’t interest me,” Mother declared. “No is no. And if all the mothers let their children jump off the roof, should I let you do that, too?”

Mother is 87 years old, may God bless her and keep her, and I’m 65, soon to retire − and she still treats me like a snot-nosed kid.

And so, with a bleeding heart, I watch the demonstrators’ tent encampment through the window in my second-floor apartment on Nahmani, corner of Rothschild. In my heart I’m cursing Mother, but in my imagination I’m writing a manifesto calling on the oppressed of the world to unite because they have nothing to lose except the apartments they have been promised in the wills of their tyrannical parents, who stubbornly refuse to die, and thereby prevent young people like us from receiving our inheritance and finally getting settled financially.

This morning Mother phoned, crying: “Hinda from upstairs told me that yesterday, when she went downstairs with her Filipina, she was attacked by demonstrators from the boulevard, who shouted that she’s a stinking landlord. That an old woman her age should be able to manage in one room rather than an entire apartment. She wanted to tell them that Itzik, her son, long ago divided her apartment into two units and rents the second unit to a young couple, but the protesters pushed her over and she started to bleed. Those are your demonstrators? Phooey, communists. Let them go back to Russia!”

The truth is I’m afraid to go downstairs because the demonstrators might look at me cross-eyed or hit me. How could they tell that I’m also one of the oppressed, that I sympathize with their struggle? And that the fact that I live on Nahmani, corner of Rothschild, means nothing, and that it’s my mother who’s keeping me on a short leash and not letting me join them?

In my imagination I hang a banner on the guardrail of my balcony that proclaims “Long live the protest! Hang the exploiting landlords on Rothschild’s streetlamps!” But then I catch myself and say in my mother’s voice, “Calm down, in the end they’ll hang you too, dumbbell.”

And, in fact, what am I seeing right this minute, while writing this article? That bastard Itzik, Hinda’s son, is leaving one of the protest tents under my house, stretching, yawning. After him come his stupid wife and their two snot-nosed kids, and the children are holding a sign in black and red magic markers: “Lower apartment prices!”

What nerve, I said to myself at first. But on second thought I was full of admiration for Itzik, who always represented the ultimate, handsome sabra with amazing forelocks.

Itzik understood much faster than I that the essence of Israeliness is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is Israel’s national talent. It’s the ability to separate what you actually are from what you convince yourself that you are. For example, you’re actually as materialistic as everyone else, but you convince yourself that you’re a leftist like Marx and Engels. Or, you’re actually down and out and don’t have a penny to your name, so you join the protest to lower apartment prices. And the prices go down. You buy an apartment cheap, divide it into two residential units and rent one out.

Meanwhile, the protest dies down and your rent goes up again. From the money you saved when things were cheaper, you buy an apartment in Bucharest ‏(they say this is the time to buy one there‏). You move to Romania, so you can rent out your two half-apartments in Tel Aviv. You save and save, until you buy another apartment − this time in Tbilisi ‏(they say Georgia is developing and that this is the time to buy an apartment there‏).

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Bucharest and Tbilisi. People take to the streets to protest the Israelis who have taken over the real-estate market and pushed up rental prices. There are reports of a little pogrom here and a little pogrom there.

The situation becomes grave. Itzik, Hinda’s son, the ultimate sabra, the handsome young man with the forelocks − who incidentally is also a general in the Israel Defense Forces − is not ready to have Jewish blood spilled once again like water, and starts a protest movement to liberate Bucharest and Tbilisi from the anti-Semitic rioters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak unite in order to save the Jewish people. One bomb on Bucharest, a second on Tbilisi.

So, just like that, in no time, the State of Israel’s real-estate problem has been solved.