'Impossible to live here': Israelis protest against cost of living in Tel Aviv

Growing discontent comes after the dissolution of parliament last month and the announcement of elections in November

Israelis gather in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the increased cost of living in the capital. AFP
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Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest against the rising cost of living as increases in food and fuel prices show no signs of abating.

The cost of housing was also a rallying point for demonstrators, as rent has soared across the country amid a real estate boom that has priced out lower income families.

Disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have driven prices up in the country that already ranks among the most expensive places to live.

The cost of living crisis has been acute in Tel Aviv, which boasts a thriving high-tech scene and a stretch of Mediterranean beach lined by gleaming new hotels and condominiums.

Tel Aviv is more expensive as it is the country's economic hub, with high paying tech jobs drawing talent from across the country, driving up food prices and rent.

“We are here because the prices of everything are rising in Israel. It's just becoming impossible to live here. And this is why, as you can see, so many of us came out tonight, to shout [about] what we cannot achieve; we cannot achieve even rent for our apartments, we cannot achieve the basic price for the commodities we want to purchase in the supermarket,” said Yael Agmon, 24, member of the Standing Together movement, an Israeli organisation that also campaigns for Palestinian rights.

“If we want to dream, one day, to have our own place, it's becoming more and more a distant dream that we look [at] as naive or stupid to even think about it,” she added.

House prices in Israel have increased by 16 per cent in the past year, according to the country's Central Bureau of Statistics, the fastest rise on record.

The government has tried to alleviate rising fuel costs by suspending a tax on diesel and petroleum, but this has been cancelled out by the oil price rise after the start of the Ukraine war.

“People here in Tel Aviv they pay more than 50 per cent of their salary for housing,” said Nimrod Regev, a Tel Aviv resident.

“So, how much do you have left for just living. People [who] want to go out don't have public transportation. So it's really expensive to keep a car and you have traffic all day and house prices are high anyway,” he said.

Growing discontent over the cost of living comes as the country prepares for new elections on November 1, following parliament's dissolution last month after the coalition government collapsed.

Until then, Yair Lapid has taken on the of prime minister. In June 2021, he brought together an unlikely alliance of right-wing nationalists, secular liberals and Israeli-Arab Islamists who united to unseat former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking office with Naftali Bennett at the helm of a coalition government .

But the coalition struggled to stay united amid a wave of crises to hit the country, including mounting violence between the Israeli army and militant group Hamas, and rioting between Israeli-Arabs and Jews that rocked the country during the Gaza conflict in May last year.

Vowing to make a political comeback, Mr Netanyahu has assured that he and his allies — extreme-right nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties — will finally achieve a majority government, following what he described on Thursday as a “failed (coalition) experiment”.

“We are the only alternative. A strong, nationalist, responsible government,” said Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial over corruption charges which he denies.

Updated: July 03, 2022, 7:27 AM