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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Protest Movement in Israel

Photo by TheeErin

My old friends Michael and Gayle just returned from a month in Israel. They lived there for 15 years in the 70's and 80's. Michael told me about the social uprising that has been going on all summer with tent encampments in the medians along busy streets and in parks. Many thousands are part of it, frequently going to work in the day and returning to the encampments for the nights. The mass protest is against the high cost of housing that make it difficult - especially for young people - to cover rent - even when they have jobs. They are protesting the huge gap between rich and poor in the country, and policies that favor the rich and raise the cost of living. Michael said it's common to make about $400/month but have rent of $1200 in Tel Aviv for a one bedroom apartment.

There are numerous encampments with particular demographics such as single mothers. There are performances, workshops and speakers who come to particular encampments for public events open to everyone. It sounds like the teach-ins and campus building takeovers of the late 60's and early '70's. Michael heard it began when a young woman who was fed up told her friends that she was going to camp out along a boulevard in Tel Aviv. Facebook helped fuel a mass movement and within weeks, there were tents everywhere, and in several cities. On July 30th a mass demonstration in Tel Aviv numbered at least 150,000 in a country of 7 million.

Photo from The Adovcacy Project

Michael said the protesters are purposely not discussing the Palestinian issue and relations with Arab neighboring countries as that would enable the powers that be to divide them against each other. For now they have some support in the government. The police have let them be. The mayor of Rosh Pinna, joined the protestors there. Several of Michael and Gayle's Israeli friends now have kids who are very involved in the tent cities - yet another opportunity for us to comment on how quickly the years have passed.

This uprising may fizzle as the school term begins again in the coming weeks, but it has been huge and inspiring. Maybe something transformative will come out of it. I was hardly aware of it. I went to YouTube and found a few videos that provide some visuals and context.

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