In June 2011, as her tenancy agreement was coming to an end, twenty five year old Daphne Leef started looking for a new apartment.
The extensive search proved futile and all property within reasonable distance from her Tel Aviv job was well beyond her means. This in itself was deflating but what made her lose hope, was the realisation that rent prices in the area have actually doubled over the past five years.
The frustrated film editor issued a post on Facebook stating that in protest of the sky high rent prices, come July 14th she will be setting up home in a tent at the heart of Tel Aviv's posh Rothschild Boulevard. Half in jest she extends an invitation for others to join her.
One hundred and fifty students turn up on the first night with even more sympathizers setting up tents on the second. Word of the housing protest spreads like wildfire.
A week later, the long rows of tents along the boulevard become a fixture in the city's landscape and the weekend demonstration drew a crowd over 20,000 strong. Most significantly, the struggling middle class who cannot ' close the month ' as they say in Israel have joined the fight and are calling for a welfare state. A group of demonstrators carrying a coffin with the tombstone like engraving 'Middle Classes, Rest In Peace', expressed the 'vanishing' class's sentiment to perfection.
The country's simmering social discord rises to the surface and the movement is amassing countrywide support. Thousands of stroller pushing mothers march along the city streets to protest against the high cost of living, joined by trade unions teachers, doctors and factory workers. Tents pop up in towns and cities all over Israel and the movement's representatives are invited to meet president Peres.
The call for social justice has struck a resounding chord within Israeli society and transcended socio economic barriers. A sense of a united cause embraces the nation as Israeli Arabs from the northern Lebanese border to Be'er Sheba in the south hold demonstrations in their home towns crying for more socialist values in a capitalistic society. 'A beautiful thing is happening to Israeli society' says Be'er Sheba's mayor as he greets hundreds of Tel Aviv students who travelled specially to his little town in solidarity.
The world's media continue to descend on Tel Aviv's 'tent city', reporting somewhat in awe of the democratic protest. 'There are no tanks here' remarks Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales during a private tour as his guide translates the multitude of Hebrew protest signs around.
The internet age vibe inspires Wales. 'There used to be mass demonstrations' he remarks, 'but they were organized by large organizations, today it's much more spontaneous.'
Three weeks into the protest and the weekend demonstration draws an unprecedented crowd of 300.000 Israelis. The city is awash with poignant signs calling for prime minister Netanyahu to wake up. One telling sign bears a Facebook page design and carries the message Event : Revolution, Attending 7 million. (Israel's current population).
It is August 2011 and Rothschild Avenue's tents are now several kilometers long. Prime minister Netanyahu has 'woken up' and set up a government task force to examine the relentless social movement's demands. Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, head of the appointed team has six weeks to report on the prospect of free education, affordable housing, reduced fuel prices and stricter regulation of the rental market. 'These six weeks will be critical to the future of the State of Israel' he tells the cautiously grateful activists.
Besides profoundly affecting Israeli society and flatly dispelling the myth of the Facebook generation being apathetic, this protest has made history as the world's first Facebook revolution. Unlike others which simmered on the streets and used social networking to communicate, Israel's housing protest started with Daphne Leef's single Facebook post.
With newfound optimism, one Israeli internet forum entry suggests thanking Daphne Leef for starting this revolution. 'What for?' comes a reply, 'all she did for set up a Facebook page.'
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