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August 8, 2011 11:38 pm

Israel Expats Protest Around the World

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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The 2011 housing protests in Israel. Photo: Hanay.

The Israeli protests have raised a tent that now stretches across continents. In New York’s Times Square, Israeli students pitched symbolic tents in solidarity with Tel Aviv’s protesters. “A nation of workers, not slaves,” they chanted. “We want justice, not charity.” “Our friends are sleeping in tents throughout the country in an effort to affect serious change and this is our way of supporting them from afar and encouraging them to continue their important endeavor until we return to Israel to take part in the struggle,” stated the group’s press release.

According to YNET, The New York rally was organized by Omri Ariav. “I couldn’t get over what was going on in Israel,” he explained. “In the past year I did more than 30 days of active reserve duty, (and) I can barely keep a car and a rented apartment with a room-mate. Interviewed by the Jerusalem Post, Nir Yanovsky Dagan, a student at a Columbia University program, said he “felt it was shame to miss out on such a significant protest. It’s important for us to say that this (Times Square) protest was not against Israel or organized by yordim (a derogatory term describing Israeli who have left the country) but by people who live there and are going back who want to show support for the country.”

Similar protests took place in Washington, D.C. and In Los Angeles, home to more than 200,000 Israelis. “We need to stand as one people “Am Echad” said that event’s Webpage. “to show the Israeli public that we care and stand with them.”

“We must send a clear message…we live here and not in Israel for these exact reasons.” The LA protest organizers stressed that it was their duty to support the cause and urged web users to join the protest with tents, signs and guitars.

Meanwhile, at protest central, Rothschild Street, Tel Aviv, protesters went into the streets Saturday calling for “social justice.” Initiated by the “middle class,” who suffer from high housing costs, rising prices for basic food and energy costs (electricity rose 12% in the last weeks – a bargain in comparison to the originally proposed 20% hike) and high taxation.

With the gap between rich and poor growing more visible, the protests have crossed generational and traditional group boundaries. Young people, students, retirees and families have joined the protest. By Sunday, leaders were demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in front of a camera – a request that back lashed: “It’s an attempt to humiliate Netanyahu,” said one of their partners.

“We’re devoting ourselves to this thing wholeheartedly, because we’re sure it will effect change, and we feel the weight of responsibility on our shoulders,” protest leader Stav Safir told Haaretz. “We won’t be able to look those whose lives can be changed in the eye if we don’t continue to lead the protest and do everything we can to create the society we all want here.”

Characterizing the Israeli action as a “transparent” protest, her own remarks had their own “transparency:” “Our desire is to show every step to the people. ” The Prime Minister’s Office she claimed, “decided to ignore this demand and point a finger at our desire to create a transparent, democratic process.””All of us here feel the same distress, a popular distress that doesn’t belong to one particular community.”

The protestors have effectively formed a shadow “government,” “ We represent public thinking,” claimed Shafir. ” Each of the tent representatives represents a particular tent. Around the country, she said “people want the same thing. …We’re just trying to help turn it into reality… Our audience includes all communities, people of all ages, all layers of the population.”

Claiming to represent the interests of “ordinary people who serve the country” Shafir says “What we have created in the last two and a half weeks is a country within the country. In the tents sits a society that… is concerned about education, dialogue, discussion, culture and support. This can exist in Israeli society at large. … We demand the return of the government to the people…There’s no reason why people who now hold positions of power can’t remain in them. We don’t want to change the members of the Knesset but rather to change the system.”

“The revolution has already taken place. We’re learning to express our desires and not be ashamed of them. In this sense, we as a society have already undergone a revolution. The protest will end the minute we begin to see that the reality we demand is coming into being.”

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