|The Protest Tour (A to E)|
The week before the attacks on southern Israel, David and Daniel decided to visit the various protest sites around the country. Leaving Jerusalem (A),
early in the morning their first stop was in Be'er Sheva (B),
located on the northern edge of the Negev
desert, 115 kilometres south-east of Tel Aviv and 120 kilometres south-west of Jerusalem
|Be'er Sheva Tents|
Initially, there was a local population of refugees from Arab countries. A wave of immigrants from Russia followed. In 1982, when Israel airlifted a large part of the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel, many were settled in Be'er Sheva. Add to this an assortment of native Israelis and immigrants from around the world and you have the general population of about that today numbers about 195,000.
The protesters in Be'er Sheva, like the rest of the country have real concerns about being able to afford a basic existence. For some, the thought of buying an apartment will never be an option, while for others the concern is whether they could afford any kind of a roof over their heads at all. Make no mistake, their issues are very real, as is their desire to have meaningful dialogue towards finding a solution to these problems.
After speaking to some of the tent city residents, David and Daniel headed off to the bustling city of Tel Aviv (C)
With a population of about 404,000 Tel Aviv
is second only to Jerusalem in size. Located on the sea, and boasting high-rises, big business and hi-tech, Tel Aviv tends to attract the secular section of the population, and is considered (by some)
to be the New York of the Middle-East.
|Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv|
The protesters chose one of the poshest areas in the city center~the elite, Rothschild Boulevard
. This is where the protests began and surely where the largest number of tents are to be found.
It is no surprise that the residents, who are living in some of Israel's most expensive real estate, were less than enthusiastic to see a "tent city"
spring up in their front yard, complete with kitchens and porta-potties!
Just like in Be'er Sheva, the people David spoke with had varied, yet similar reasons for their "tent city".
One man mused that people had become "bored with life"...You are born~you die~and unless you are a genius there is nothing in between.
|In the Streets of Tel Aviv|
Those who came out to protest and live in the tents varied in age. Many were young adults who were struggling to find their way through the education system in hopes of building a future.
High university fees and sky rocketing rents, combined with an almost complete lack of available housing is their main concern. Add to that a wage system that has remained stagnant while prices continue to rise, and you have the problem.
But, it is not only the young who are out in force!
|Everyone is Participating!|
Those who are well past middle age see little hope of ever retiring~even with the most modest lifestyle.
For years salaries have stayed unreasonably low, while the cost of living has risen at a frightening pace. This combination means that many are forced to work well into their seventies (or until they die)
, with no chance of a reprieve~They cannot afford to stop working!
This is not a sudden phenomenon, rather, it has been brewing for years, until finally, the middle class citizens of Israel decided to take to the streets. Some claim that the Arab Spring spreading throughout the middle east was a catalyst, but there is a big difference between Israel and the Arab protests.
Israel is a peaceful, democratic state, whose citizens are free to select their government via voting. Israel's protesters want a peaceful dialogue that will bring about a reasonable solution. They only ask that the government fulfill promises made over the years.
From Tel Aviv, the next stop was the northern town of Kiryat Shmona (D)
, named for the "eight"
men who died defending the area during the 1920 Arab revolt. The population is about 23,100~of which one third are under the age of nineteen.
One young girl told David that she was a student and worked two jobs~yet she had nothing. She reiterated that she was "fine"
but she was only existing, nothing more. She worried that future children would question why nobody acted to change things for the better.
After a quick stop in the Galilee (E),
it was time to head for home and try to digest what was taking place across the country.
Simply put, Israeli wages are abnormally low, and prices unusually high~with the gap widening. The average citizens across the country, work long hours, to barely put food on the table and have a roof over their heads.
Anything more, any future hope, is slim~and for the most, almost impossible.
People need salaries that are in line with the cost of living. The (almost)
total lack of affordable
living space means that up to 80% of one's earnings will only pay for a tiny room. There is no hope in this situation!
Yes, there are those with hidden agendas
, and some who want a free ride
, but the majority of Israelis ask only for a fair wage for an honest days work and the chance to build a future.
It's time...Hopefully the Israeli government is listening.
Protests in Israel~Part 1
Protests in Israel~Part 2