Israel is a significantly different country than any other in the region. The differences are apparent in the country's infrastructure, with skyscrapers in Tel Aviv, a new light rail train in Jerusalem and an economy that grew 4.5 percent in 2010. There are a lot of things Israel is doing right, but the country is not without its problems. Obviously there are significant security threats in Israel, but what has Israelis showing up in mass protest is the increasing difficulty to make ends meet.
Demonstrations began a month ago when protesters pitched tents in Tel Aviv to raise awareness of the skyrocketing rent in the city. The protest quickly gained momentum and tent cities began forming across the nation. Just last week, more than 300,000 Israelis across the country protested, demanding lower rent and food prices. In a country of approximately 7.7 million, that is a significant turnout. The protests have been peaceful with no arrests or injuries reported.
The people are demanding economic reform. Despite the economic growth of the country and an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, there is a large amount of people who are living under the poverty line. According to the CIA World Factbook, almost 24 percent of Israelis are living under the poverty line, which applies to people in Israel living on less than $7.30 a day. There is also a middle class struggling to pay rent, buy food and support a family. People here are well-educated, but many are having difficulty getting started or finding jobs that pay well.
As for the cost of food, it seems that everything except hummus and falafel is expensive here. Food is outrageously expensive here compared to the United States. Yesterday I went to the market and bought 12 eggs for $3.50, a pack of shredded cheese for $6.00 and a can of black beans for $2.25. Usually I go to the market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables because they are significantly cheaper there, but the items listed above are the same price at the market.
These protests have been deemed everything from a leftist ploy intended to turn Israel into a government-handout socialist country to a revolution of the middle class who are no longer going to remain silent. If it is either of those or somewhere in the middle, it will be interesting to see how this develops.
Jerusalem and Online Correspondent
The Crossover Project.