Don’t look for me at home today. I’ll be grabbing a tent, packing a toothbrush and joining the hundreds and hopefully thousands of people who arrive at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. It’s not that I don’t have an apartment, but it won’t last for long: Rent is skyrocketing, just like the towers Mayor Huldai is building for the rich – soon I will have to inform my landlord that this is it: I cannot afford to pay any more than I do.
Anyone who lives in Tel Aviv knows that he is living on borrowed time, because the city is becoming incredibly expensive. The apartment I can barely afford today with a roommate will likely be beyond my abilities in the coming years, and I can only dream of an apartment for myself or with a partner. Living in Tel Aviv – and not in a penthouse, just some crumbling room – has turned into a dream and subject for longing. The city itself – and there is really no other like it – is gradually turning into a nightmare.
The outrageous (or comforting) thing about this reality is that it’s not a natural disaster: Affordable housing, a notion common in every global city that wishes to stay alive, is a solution that can be implemented in Tel Aviv as well. Yet in order to come up with solutions, one must first assume that there’s a problem. This is precisely why we are heading to the square today: In order to cry out about the injustice, in the hopes that our voices shall reach the masters living in the northern part of the city.
Tel Aviv is becoming impossible: The city that never sleeps is freezing in place and the streets are not taking off anywhere – they are turning into a museum. Soon they will be charging us for walking on Rothschild Boulevard or for bathing in the sea.
Yet this stagnation is not felt everywhere: One needs to make no effort to hear the sounds of the construction cranes and the loud French of apartment owners who don’t live here – they loudly mock us, letting us know that our time has passed: Goodbye young people, see you later students, let’s hug the artists and party goers and welcome the rich; nice to meet you, money.
Readers who don’t sympathize with us will likely say to themselves now: Crybabies, they should shut up! What all the fuss about? A few spoiled brats who insist on living in the heart of Tel Aviv? They should move to the Negev, parasites! And while we’re at it, let’s address the doctors’ protest too: You’re unhappy about your salary and never-ending shifts? Make a career change then, lazy bums! Who needs your strikes? And to cottage cheese buyers: Paying eight shekels for cottage is too much for you? Eat bread and margarine and stop with your boycotts.
Well, that’s true. One can give up cottage cheese, make a career change and move to Bat-Yam. But the problem is that other types of cheese are also expensive, that lawyers are also making less money, and that even to afford an apartment in Bat-Yam one needs to inherit some money.
The housing crisis does not start at the heart of Tel Aviv. Young couples from Petach Tikva and Jerusalem cannot afford an apartment, but the government barely interferes. Well, that’s not completely true: Young couples can always put on a protective vest and move beyond the Green Line, where the government hands out rewards.
But what about the people who do not wish to establish an outpost? These people are hereby invited to set up a tent at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and in Jerusalem’s Zion Square Thursday evening. The protest is not confined to a handful of people who insist on living in Tel Aviv: It is the protest of anyone who feels that the middle class, who work hard to make a living and seek a reasonable standard of living, keep sinking lower. It’s the protest of all those who look around and see the immense wealth spread throughout central Israel, knowing that the pie is being divided unfairly.
Shai Zamir is Ynet’s science editor