The tent protest against high housing prices that began last week on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard has spread to other cities like Jerusalem and Beer Sheba and continues to grow. By Tuesday there were approximately 150 tents on Rothschild Blvd. Activists from the new National Left movement took over an abandoned building on the street overnight and warned that they would escalate their protest by blocking streets.
“Up to this point we've been sitting on the sidelines, but no more,” said Yaniv Levin, one of the protest organizers. “No one can drag us away. We will sit here as long as necessary until we see change.”
In response to the claim that political groups with other agendas are piggybacking on the protests, Levin said, “We can’t prevent this, but our struggle is solely about housing prices.”
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, about 100 young people set up a tent protest adjacent to Tzahal Square, near the Old City, in solidarity with other protests around the country. Groups behind the Jerusalem protest include the Student Union, the Awakening Movement (Jerusalem chapter of Meretz), New Spirit (a non-profit student organization aimed at strengthening the city) as well as other smaller student organizations and ultra-Orthodox groups.
The Jerusalem tent protesters are in touch with other protesters across the country. They did not, however, receive a permit from the municipality. After brief negotiations, the Jerusalem municipality decided to allow the protesters to continue but said they would have to move to a different location by Thursday. The municipality announced support for their struggle, but said that the current location was problematic in terms of both tourism and security.
“The price of housing in Israel, and especially Jerusalem, has soared to an absurd degree,” said Meirav Cohen of the Awakening movement on Tuesday. “Students and young couples spend the bulk of their salaries on rent. We expect the government to provide a solution for the present and into the future. We should be selling land to those builders willing to commit to reasonably priced housing.”
The protest has also trickled northward. A tent demonstration started on Wednesday in Haifa was organized by the Technion University Student Association. In Afula, a tent demonstration is being organized by students of Emek Israel and Oranim Colleges.
“We intend to step up our protests,” said National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmueli, who is coordinating efforts with other protest organizers. “It can’t be that the right to sleep under a roof is subject to question.” Students throughout Israel said on Tuesday that the high cost of real estate is not a problem exclusive to Tel Aviv, but that prices have spiked throughout the country."
“The level of participation in the struggle proves that we are not just talking about a problem in Tel Aviv,” said Uri Keider, chairman of the Ben-Gurion University Student Union. “I hope that the myth of the problem being limited to the center of the country is exposed and that we can move forward quickly to find a solution to this national problem.”
The New Israel Fund (NIF) has provided financial assistance to the protests in the country's periphery and paid for a massive protest tent in Kiryat Shmona, Beer Sheba, Ashdod and elsewhere.