Header Photo Credit

*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tel Aviv Tent City is Bigger News than Amy Weinhouse

Photo Credit: AP/Oded Balilty
The tent city protests in Tel Aviv have become international news within the past two weeks as residents from all over the city have left their apartments and moved themselves and their tents to camp out on Rothchild Boulevard in protest of unbearably high rent prices.

Photos, videos and blogs about the tents, and news of tents sprouting up everywhere from Netanya and BeerSheva to Modiin are giving people something to talk about.

It has officially become cool again to be politically active.

That is, long as it has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict or Israeli democracy.

That's because this time, we all seem to agree. We seem to be able to come together in favor of one main goal, despite the fact that no one really knows or cares how we're gonna get there. Tel Aviv rent prices are too high, as are rent prices in all of Israel for that matter. So it's been agreed that the time has come for the people of Israel to unite against the Likud-Labor government to demand they lower our rent.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images via the Independant
The Rothchild tent city really is quite a site to see, turning a typically bustling avenue into an exciting tent-riddled festival complete with food stands, workshops, artistic wooden statues, topical discussions and musical performances throughout.

The first organized protest this past Saturday Night was slightly more forceful in nature, blocking main streets, leading to over 50 arrests, and drawing a massive crowd of over 4,000 despite the stifling heat.

On the one hand, I want to join in, play my guitar in the streets and stand arm in arm in protest against the high rent prices. Because, it is true. The rent is freakin high. And, more than that, because I've noticed that its got people talking. Suddenly, people in Tel Aviv are talking about the government.  I've received more facebook invitations to join in the protest than I have for some of the biggest concerts - many invitations being from people who never spoke about rights or political action. There is a buzz in the air, and it's a good buzz.

Photo Credit: Mushon Zer-Aviv

As quoted from  +972 magazine, an inspired blog by Dimitri Reider about Israel and the Palestinian territories, he says,
The entire thing feels, strangely, organic, open-ended, and effective; the recurring theme is not just the rent, but that the whole system is rotten, the parliament is out of touch, the ministers are unrepresentative, the sovereign people has very little idea of how and by whom fateful decisions are actually being made.
But unlike Dimitri, I'm unsure of its effectiveness, doubtful of its influence and wary of the possibility that it has enough focus to make a difference. Moreover, I choose to live in Tel Aviv. I choose to live here because I love this city the same way my parents choose to live in Manhattan because they love NYC --- and both them and I see most of our salaries go towards rent. And, while statistics show that rent in Israel is disproportionately high to the salaries here, this country is constantly stuck in a vacillation between socialism and capitalism that is consistently moving towards capitalism.

Maybe, though, I'm just too jaded. Maybe I need to look at the bigger picture and join in what could be the beginning of a real active left-wing movement, a movement that the Right takes seriously so it can take the tent city and rent issue and run with it. Because, as +972mag says:
In this country, it’s all about real-estate. Every political controversy has to do with land, every social battle, and obviously, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict itself. If you understand real estate here, you understand it all.


  1. The protest may have been started by the left (as they / we are generally more concerned with human rights and social justice) but it would never have gotten so big had it stayed a left wing protest alone. In fact, part of the tactics attempted by the government is to "tarnish" the protest with the "radical left wing" brush to make people who disagree with the politics pull back. In fact, tent camps such as the one in Levinsky Garden in Tel Aviv (which keeps being evacuated by the council), while populated in part by left wing anarchists, offers the opportunity for people from the southern neighbourhoods (usually composed of centre and right wing people) to voice their anger at the government as well.

  2. Hey man, thanks for the comment. I agree. The protest would never have gotten so big had it remained a left-wing protest only. I should have elaborated on that point. Now, with, as you say, a larger contingency and wider political stretch, there seems to be a nice buzz- a new awareness at least - that maybe change can happen. And, ps, smearing the left as "radical liberals" is standard in this day in age.


Let me know what you think!