The rhythmic Hebrew slogans used at many of the protests are strikingly similar to punchy Arabic lines that have reverberated throughout the
On Saturday night, more than 150,000 people – out of a population of seven million – gathered in 12 cities across
Small-scale actions that started with tents being pitched in Tel Aviv and other cities over soaring housing costs have grown into a mass movement against the right-wing Netanyahu government, unemployment, the ruling families who own most of the economy and deep inequality.
Recent demonstrations have included marches against the prices of petrol, boycotts of expensive cottage cheese that forced manufacturers to lower prices and lengthy strikes by social workers and doctors over pay and working conditions.
Middle-class Jews and Israeli Palestinians have come together in local encampments in a way that seemed unimaginable only a few weeks ago. And they have shaken the country’s ruling economic and political elites to their core. There were reports that Bedouin tribesmen had joined the marchers in outlying towns. A poll by showed that 87% of Israelis support the tent city protests.
In echoes of the movements in
Activist Daphni Leef, who initiated the first tent village protest in Tel Aviv against housing prices two weeks ago, told a crowd of 70,000-100,000 Israelis gathered outside the city's main art museum that "we don't want to replace the government, but to do more than that. We want to change the rules of the game".
A steady influx of wealthy diaspora Jews from
Since 2008, the price of an average apartment has gone up by 55% rent by 27%, far in excess of wage increases.
Many protesters say they do not want to live in the distant suburbs, where rent is cheap but amenities are far. Public transport is notoriously bad in Tel Aviv, where people joke that "the Messiah will arrive before the new light rail is built".
Efraim Davidi, a political scientist at
The Arab Spring is making itself felt in this unlikely context. The regimes being challenged are quite different, but the impulses are similar – corruption, inflation, unemployment, inequality and a failure of the existing political system.
The shattering of the Mubarak regime and the heroic uprising by the Syrian people in the face of a murderous assault by the Assad dictatorship has served to loosen the Zionist grip. As The celebrated author David Grossman told the crowd
The idea that the Jewish state represents all Jews equally is being exposed and blown apart and with it will go the raison d’être of the Zionist regime itself. Class rather than ethnic and religious questions are now coming to the fore in