150,000 demand lower prices in Israel

Sunday, July 31, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

The grassroots movement against the high cost of living in Israel escalated on Saturday when 150,000 Israelis gathered to demonstrate at several locations around the country.

The largest demonstration took place in Tel Aviv, where 60,000 people took to the streets to demand that the government do something about skyrocketing housing prices, out-of-control gas prices, and the bloated cost of education.

Crowds numbering in the thosuands also gathered in Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Beersheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Modiin and Nazareth.

While the overall cost of living in Israel is on par with America and most of Europe, Israelis in general earn only half of what of Americans and Europeans earn, and sometimes much less.

The demonstrators are demanding what they call "social justice." Among their demands are:

  1. That something be done to lower the astronomical housing prices (real estate rates have been increasing in the center of Israel by up to 20% annually for several years);

  2. That public education be offered for free from age 0 (most Israeli mothers are forced to work, but have to spend the bulk of their salary on expensive day cares);

  3. That the prices of basic foods be kept under control, and that the cost of gasoline be slashed (Israelis currently pay about $8 a gallon); and

  4. That social workers, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and other public servants be paid better salaries (many currently earn just above minimum wage).

Already, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who readily admits there is a cost of living crisis in Israel, has put into motion land reforms that should bring down the cost of housing.

On Saturday, Netayahu's office said that it is working overtime on additional initiatives to lower taxes and cut gasoline and energy costs.

"The government is listening to the public's requests," Likud lawmaker Ofir Akunis told Israel Radio.

But, unfortunately, the "social justice" movement has been highly politicized, and those leading it have insisted they will settle for nothing less than the fall of Netanyahu's government.

Commentators have noted that the protest leaders apparently forget that the left-wing governments that preceeded Netanyahu's did even less to rectify the problem.

Akunis said that if average Israelis really want to focus on and address the issues at hand, then they will find a ready and willing partner in Netanyahu.

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