Protests In Israel Target High Housing Costs It began with one woman pitching a tent to object to the high cost of rent. Now it's a nationwide movement. Demonstrators say the average wage in Israel isn't keeping up with skyrocketing housing prices.
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Protests In Israel Target High Housing Costs

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Protests In Israel Target High Housing Costs

Protests In Israel Target High Housing Costs

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In Israel, protests over the high cost of living are spreading across the country. The issues range from the high cost of housing to what it takes to buy a carton of cottage cheese. Protesters say they want the government to keep life affordable in Israel, just as it's done in the past. Sheera Frenkel has more.

SHEERA FRENKEL: Amichai Greer stands in front of his tent on Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv's most expensive residential streets. It's not a bad view to wake up to in the morning, says Greer. Since July 16, Greer has slept in a tent on the promenade that lines Rothschild Street. What started with one young woman pitching a tent to protest the high cost of rent in Tel Aviv, has grown into a nationwide movement. Greer says it's the kind of protest that any Israeli citizen can get behind.

Mr. AMICHAI GREER: All over the country people can relate to it, it doesn't mater if you're from the right wing or from the left wing.

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FRENKEL: The broad appeal of the protest was evident Saturday night, when more than 30,000 Israelis marched through the streets of Tel Aviv calling for affordable housing. It was the largest domestic protest the country has seen in several years.

Bezalel Aloni came to the protest with his children and grandchildren. Aloni, who describes himself as well into his 60s, said he was appalled at the lack of housing assistance provided to younger generations.

Mr. BEZALEL ALONI: (Through translator) When we were a young couple we could easily afford an apartment. The state helped pay for most of it for us. But quickly this country has changed.

FRENKEL: The newly born Jewish state had socialist ideals, said Aloni. And that included subsidized housing for young people and new immigrants. These programs, however, have slowly disappeared.

According to statistics published in Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, the price of housing in Israel has risen 60 percent in the last four years. The newspaper said that young people are now spending up to half their salaries on housing.

The protestors say they want assistance, not charity, from the government. Some, like 25-year-old student Shai Triliani are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.�

Mr. SHAI TRILIANI (Student): (Through translator) All he wants is to keep his office. Netanyahu doesn't care about anything else. He should leave office just like all those other leaders in the Middle East that were forced out. That or we will force him out and into early elections.

FRENKEL: Since the start of the summer, there have been protests over half a dozen different domestic issues in various parts of Israel. The Hebrew press has compared the situation to the upheavals of the Arab Spring. Many of the protesters say it's a romantic comparison, but not accurate.

From the tent city in Tel Aviv, Amichai Greer says the movement here is more like the anti-austerity protests in Europe, than the revolutions of the Arab Spring.

Mr. GREER: I can compare it to what happened in Europe mainly, because after all it's a democratic country. It's a part revolution, let's say, because we can go out and we can vote, we have rights. But we don't have the social rights.

FRENKEL: And Greer adds that in many cases, the protests have already brought about positive change. Israel's leading dairy producers lowered the price of cottage cheese - a staple food here - by 25 percent after a series of protests.

Striking doctors and social workers are holding regular meetings with the Finance and Health ministries to try and resolve their concerns. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised to put forward a series of measures to reduce housing costs.

For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel in Tel Aviv.�

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