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Tent encampments spring up across Israel to protest soaring housing costs

Over a decade after 2011 movement, protest camps pop up again in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other parts of the country, with organizers planning for large demonstration on July 2

Israelis set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv to protest against the soaring housing prices in Israel and social inequalities, on June 19, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv to protest against the soaring housing prices in Israel and social inequalities, on June 19, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A protest camp was set up in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, joining the encampments that have been set up in several locations across the country in recent days to protest soaring housing prices, in moves reminiscent of the 2011 mass social justice movement.

Other encampments were located in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Pardes Hanna, Holon and Rosh Ha’ayin.

The Tel Aviv camp was set up on Rothschild Boulevard, a street that has become a symbol of the high cost of living in the city and was the epicenter of the 2011 protests.

“We want to bring real change, not just to Tel Aviv. I live with a roommate in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood of Tel Aviv and I came to protest against the completely insane rent increases,” Yotam Harpaz, 23, who was one of the first to set up his tent on the busy boulevard, told the Walla news site.

Ido Ben-Nun, Yotam’s roommate, also moved into a tent on Rothschild Boulevard.

“We will be there as long as it takes. The idea is to put the issue of rising housing prices back on the agenda, this time with the aim of changing the situation,” he said.

Israelis set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv to protest against the soaring housing prices in Israel and social inequalities, on June 19, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Organizers of the encampment told the Haaretz news site that in contrast to the 2011 movement, they want to present officials with “concrete demands,” adding that a team of financial experts were working on a plan to present to the government.

They also said that a large demonstration is to take place at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on July 2.

Rothschild Boulevard was the epicenter of a nationwide protest in 2011 that at its height brought an estimated 400,000 people into the streets.

That mass protest movement was sparked when 25-year-old video editor Daphni Leef found herself priced out of the rental market in Tel Aviv, pitched the first tent, and started a Facebook group.

Hundreds of mostly young people then joined her in tents along the street to protest the high cost of housing and social inequality in general. The scene soon resembled a street festival, with guitar singalongs, public debates and even Jewish text-learning on a nightly basis.

Israelis set up tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, to protest against the soaring housing prices in Israel and social inequalities, on June 19, 2022. Sign reads: ‘Rent, not Greed.’ (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Governments have been promising to lower ever-climbing housing prices for more than a decade. The sky-high costs have put home ownership out of the reach of many Israelis, weakening the middle class.

Housing prices were up 15% in January and February 2022 compared to the same period last year, marking a sharp 12-month climb, according to an April report by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Overall prices have been rising by 1.2% on average each month since February 2021, the data showed.

In October, the government unveiled a major housing plan for 2022-2025, aimed at rapidly increasing the supply of apartments in the hopes of reducing prices.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said in December that housing prices would “moderate” by the end of 2022 and that he believes Israelis may even see prices drop in the coming years.

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