Have you heard about the tent cities in Israel? Since July 2011, young people, students, married couples, families with children, older citizens, all have come to live in the tent cities found around Israel.
The media dropped away, but the fight for social justice is very much alive. I had an opportunity to speak to someone active in the movement. Here’s the interview conducted Thursday September 1, 2011.
Conversation with Ayelet Shturman
Since July 2011, citizens of Israel have banded together to protest the rising cost of living. The simple fact is that even working multiple jobs is hardly able to cover monthly expenses, even the most modest basic needs. Young couples can’t afford housing, and students are desperate for affordable accommodation. The government has done nothing concrete to answer the needs of the people.
To rally together and make sufficient noise to be heard, tent cities around the country have been erected. The largest is in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard.
Ayelet Shturman, a former pupil of mine (back in the 7th grade) came to the first day of school at Nofei Habsor Comprehensive School and suddenly appeared in the Teachers’ Room, holding posters and a rolled up tent.
After warm greetings, we sat down and spoke. She told me that she’s been living in a tent on Rothschild Bld for the past two months. And I asked her if she still drew (thinking what a wonderful thing to publish – her drawings of the goings on in the tent city.)
She replied that she didn’t really have much time to draw since she’s been busy teaching kids in the tent city. I asked her to explain.
Judih: How do you teach the kids?
Ayelet: I’ve been doing children’s games. Card games like Quartets for the revolution and Memory games for the revolution, everything designed with many terms and expressions, about the economy, and so on.
Judih: For the kids staying in the tents?
Ayelet: For the kids in the tents and for the kids who come to visit the tent city. Parents want their children to experience it as something good, but more than that, they want their children to understand. They need someone to simplify the concepts so that even their seven-year olds can grasp them and so they’ve asked us to find ways to educate the children.
J: That’s great. You’ve found a way to help them interact with the concept.
A: Yes, and it’s called a School for the Revolution and it’s taking place all over the country. Today, (Thursday, Sept 1) we have a huge tent in front of the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem. Right at this moment they’re starting.
I hope we can do something on Sunday as well. It’s very important that we make a big impression. Today in Nofei Habsor, we’re setting up a tent and inviting students and their teachers from grades 11 and 12, especially Civics classes, to come out and ask questions. We have thousands of people working on this.
J: Are you working through Facebook or do you have some other network to get out your message?
A: I’m just helping. If they need money, I work to raise it. If they need somebody to set up, I help. If they’re short of water, I help. The entire thing is run by the efforts of many people.
J: Who’s in charge? Who’s the head of the School for Revolution?
A: There’s a professor at the Seminar haKibbutzim, who teachers Sociology and Gender Studies and she’s the one who organized us, recruited people, and motivated us to act. But various people are in charge of various responsibilities.
J: So it is a movement run by the people.
A: Yes. For example there is someone in charge of all the social activities and communication. He will organize TV, internet time and radio spots.
J: A total media network.
A: Yes, and he’s in charge of that aspect. I’m responsible for education. All round Israel there will be tents and I’m responsible for them and for organizing the tent in Jerusalem. I hope to continue doing it all over the country.
J: It’s a lot of work.
A: Yes, but the media is very tired of it
J: Well, hurricanes upstage you. But people aren’t tired of not having enough money. The people are behind you.
A: Yes, but the problem is that if you don’t live in Tel Aviv, and you don’t have the opportunity to come to Rothschild, the tent city, and see what’s going on for yourself, if you live in the Kibbutzim like Tze’elim and Gvulot,
J: But there is a tent city in Be’er Sheva
A: Yes, and there is a tent city in Kiryat Shmona or Shlomi but if you’re not right there, you live by the media. You trust it to tell you what’s going on. If the media doesn’t air it, it doesn’t exist.
But the media has become really immune to what we’re doing, right now. Three months ago there were 20,000 people going around Tel Aviv, on Rothschild, maybe 30, 000 people. Then there lots of reporters and a lot of media exposure. But now?
J: I was in America visiting with my family. And I was speaking with my Uncle, who’s a Judge and 90 years old and he said:”I wish that the American people would learn from the Israeli people and do what the Israeli people are doing.” And he’s someone with a lot of influence and there are people who think of us overseas. So don’t give up. There may not be a lot of noise right now, but the noise will come back. I’ll do what I can.
A. Einshalla (by the grace of God in Arabic)
J: I’ve got a blog.
J: and I’ll do what I can. I’ll try.
A. Fabulous. Come out to Tel Aviv on Saturday. Please spread the word. I hope it will be a one million man march.
One million will make a difference. Because that’s their language. That’s what attracts media. They don’t understand anything but numbers. Half a million. They speak by numbers. Everything else doesn’t make an impression.
J: I hope you get your number.
A: I hope so. Come join us!