Tens of Thousands March in Tel Aviv to Protest Housing Shortage, High Rent Prices

Demonstrators call on government to find a sustainable solution to the housing crisis; at least 15 people arrested in protests following main rally.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night as part of a large-scale protest movement against the housing shortage and high rent prices in Israel.

Demonstrators from Haifa attend a Tel Aviv mass protest calling for a reduction in housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011. The sign reads: We demand a solution to the housing crisis.
Demonstrators attach a tent to balloons during a Tel Aviv mass protest calling for a reduction in housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011.
Demonstrators face off against police following a mass protest in Tel Aviv over spiraling housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011.
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Demonstrators from Haifa attend a Tel Aviv mass protest calling for a reduction in housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011. The sign reads: We demand a solution to the housing crisis.Credit: Morten Berthelsen
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Demonstrators attach a tent to balloons during a Tel Aviv mass protest calling for a reduction in housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011.Credit: Morten Berthelsen
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Demonstrators face off against police following a mass protest in Tel Aviv over spiraling housing prices in Israel, July 23, 2011.Credit: Oren Ziv
Tel Aviv protesters demand reduction in housing prices

The protest was an extension of the "tent cities" which have sprouted up across the country as part of an organized effort led by a cross-section of Israeli society - including the middle class, young people, students, Holocaust survivors, and the elderly.

The demonstrators marched from the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard toward the Tel Aviv Museum, where they heard speeches from various protest leaders calling on the government find a sustainable solution to the housing crisis.

During the march, 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.

Politicians were not set to address the crowd, although several Knesset members, including Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Dov Khenin (Hadash) and Muhammad Barakeh (Hadas), Nino Abesadze (Kadima), and Rachel Adato (Kadima), could be found among the demonstrators.

"I'm proud of the vast number of participants, especially the young people who give me great hope for real change," Barakeh said. He 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."

In her speech, Daphni Leef, who initiated the protest, called upon the elected government to find solutions to increasing housing prices. "We're constantly being asked what we want and we say, 'Affordable housing for all.' They tell us, 'Suggest solutions,' and we say, 'Why? That is what we have elected representatives for.'

Leef also said in her speech, "Under these conditions we will soon have no dreams. There is no time to dream when you're constantly looking to cover your rent. There's no time to dream when you're constantly looking to cover a mortgage. We are the power, we, the nation, we are not suckers."

At the end of the demonstration, Leef returned to the stage and directly addressed the prime minister. "You, Bibi, with your wild policy and your irresponsibility, you pushed us into a nadir. You, Mr. Netanyahu, caused us – the Facebook generation – to head to the streets and protest," she said.

Following of the demonstration, hundreds of protesters blocked the intersection of Kaplan and Ibn Gvirol Streets. They sat in the middle of the intersection calling out, "The people demand social justice."

Demonstrators gather in Tel Aviv, July 23, 2011, for a mass rally to protest spiraling house prices in Israel.Credit: David Bachar

Police tried to forcibly clear hundreds of protesters from blocking the intersection of Kaplan and Ibn Gvirol streets, but were unsuccessful. Protesters retaliated by throwing objects and rubbish at the police. At least 15 protesters were arrested.

Police did manage to clear the crowd from the middle of the road, enabling the intersection to open to traffic, but protesters remained close by, bursting onto the road from time to time.

Although most of the demonstrators at the rally were young, a number of elderly people joined the protest in order to show solidarity against the high cost of living in Israel.

The past few days have seen dozens of organizations and individuals join the ongoing protest movement, including youth groups, representatives of the Haredi movement, womens organizations, doctors and residents, and social workers.

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