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Friday, July 29, 2011

Camping Out Housing Protest in Jerusalem

Actually, it looks like a lot of fun.  I photographed two "campsites" of the 2011 Israeli housing protest in the center of Jerusalem. 

The first is in Independence Park, right by the Agron Street Super Sol supermarket and the second in Menorah Park by HaMashbir Department Store and "Mr. Zol" supermarket. 

Both campsites parks have convenient public toilets.  My friend and I found the WC in Menorah Park very clean, and unlike during a previous camp-out demonstration at the same location, the sinks weren't full of laundry.

I know that the basic points behind the protests are legitimate in that housing in the big cities is very expensive.  Israel hasn't built public --affordable-- public housing in the major cities for many, many years.  Contractors lucky enough to get/buy land to build on do what all businesses do.  They plan building projects that will give them the most profit.  Luxury housing with large rooms and fancy touches put the most money in their pockets.

It used to be that the larger parcels of land, controlled by official government bodies, were planned as public housing for those who didn't own their own homes, veterans and immigrants.  Contractors were told how many meters, rooms to build, and the contractors interested would apply for the rights to do so. That's how large areas/neighborhoods in Israel were built.  A certain percentage of the apartments were made available to those Israelis fitting the criteria, and the contractors could sell the remainder.

If I'm not mistaken, the last neighborhoods to be built like that in Jerusalem were Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.  So we're talking about a serious problem decades in the making.

My big question/gripe about the protests is "WHY NOW?"  All I can think of is that the Left is upset about Likud and Netanyahu's rise in the polls.  It's all politics.  Following is the list of the most recent Israeli Housing Ministers:
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Labor Party 25, 26 13/7/92 - 18/6/96
Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 27 18/6/96 - 6/7/99
Yitzhak Levy National Religious Party 28 6/7/99 - 12/7/00
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer One Israel 28 11/10/00 - 7/3/01
Natan Sharansky Yisrael BaAliyah 29 7/3/01 - 28/2/03
Effi Eitam National Religious Party 30 3/3/03 - 10/6/04
Tzipi Livni Likud* (She now heads the Kadima Party) 30 4/7/04 - 10/1/05 5
Isaac Herzog Labor Party 30 10/1/05 - 23/11/05
Ze'ev Boim Kadima 30 18/1/06 - 4/5/06
Meir Sheetrit Kadima 31 4/5/06 - 4/7/07
Ze'ev Boim Kadima 31 4/7/07 - 31/3/2009
Ariel Atias Shas 32 31/3/2009 - present
As you can well see from the list, during the past fifteen years the Likud has held the position less than any other major party.  Actually, opposition Kadima had more opportunities than any other party to provide affordable public housing, but they failed to do so.

Another important point is that the protesters don't want housing "in the sticks."  Public housing has always been built in areas in need of development, far from the center of town.  Development towns in Israel were built up by providing affordable homes and new starts to immigrants and veterans.  There is plenty of affordable housing outside of the major cities including communities in Judea and Samaria.  In Shiloh you can buy a new private home for much less than a small, old and crumbling apartment in Jerusalem.


Anonymous said...

You could also mention that it is lefty policies that in part causes the shortage. Namely, they bring in/allows to stay so many "others" - illegal foreign workers and infiltrators who are prepared to live 12 to a room, pushing up the rent even more, and they support the housing freeze in Yehuda and Shomron and Yerushalayim. Oh and the Gush Katif expulstion. Another ten thousand people who need homes.

And as you so aptly said, there is housing, just not in downtown Tel Aviv.

Part of the answer is a decent national train network.

Batya said...

a, good points
Reasonably priced public housing was never built in the desired neighborhoods.

merachefet said...

Every night there is a communal discussion on the steps by the waterfall in Gan HaSus next to the Mashbir near Ben Yehudah. It would be great to have more people representing the religious community/perspective!

Shy Guy said...

You need to post today's Latma clip.

Batya said...

merachefet, thanks for letting us know. I just don't have the time, though.

Shy, I was waiting for the English subtitles to post.