In the space of a couple of days last week I attended two protests in central Jerusalem; one evening the annual gay pride parade followed a couple of days later by the even larger housing demonstration.
Yes, it’s the summer of discontent for sure.
I am not sure how much the news of these latter protests have reached the wider world but here in Israel the sights and sounds of chanting students alongside tented villages has become all-pervading.
The cause: initially it was the issue of rising housing costs that face students and young people that had protesters erecting tented villages along Tel Aviv’s main boulevard and in parks and squares in other cities. As the number of tents multiplied their grievances began to touch upon wider issues of social justice. And now a day doesn’t go past without a myriad of other single-issue demonstrations tagging themselves onto the protests. It’s not entirely surprising as Israeli society has become increasingly unequal and unfair despite its strong economy and low unemployment levels (Israel’s Economic Miracle (or is it…?). For all the bravado that successive Israeli government have put on about the state of the Israeli economy and the dynamism of its hi-tech sector it has been failed miserably in addressing the societal inequalities that have steadily built up over a generation. As is happening across Europe and North America there is a sudden realisation that the young generation today are going to be worse off than the generation before them.
No one really knows where this is going and how long it can last. The government is unlikely to cave in as none of the coalition parties have anything to gain from jumping ship and the central-left parties are still too disorganised to gain any advantage – besides elections are still a year and a half away. Then there is the spectre of a September show-down as the Palestinians push for statehood at the United Nations; not to mention the possibility of rocket attacks from Lebanon or Gaza and whatever other security threats may exist.
Life here is definitely hotting up (as is the weather)…