Daphni Leef inspires Occupy Israel
Daphni Leef lost her apartment. The 25-year-old looked for a new one, but was appalled at the prices. She decided to move into a tent. Then she invited others to a Facebook event, to join with her in central Tel Aviv to protest high housing prices. One month later, there were 350 tents filled with supporters and 500 additional tent cities in demonstrations throughout Israel. A Tel Aviv march of 30,000 in support of the movement followed, as did one-day demonstrations around the country with hundreds of thousands of participants. Occupy Israel had begun.
Leef said at the time, “My generation grew up with the feeling that we were alone in the world. . . living in a race we have no chance of winning, that we mustn’t rely on anyone else. They taught us that it’s either you or him. . . The fact that this generation—the loneliest and most withdrawn generation—stood up and did something is nothing short of a miracle.”
Some observers noted that the movement was precipitated by the successful “cottage cheese protests” of June 2011, which succeeded in forcing down the prices of certain of Israel’s staple foods. Reporter Rabbi Amy Klein observes that Israel is the poorest “Western” country “by nearly all measurements, with twenty-five percent of the population living under the poverty line with income under 5,000 shekels (about $1,300) per month.
Raised in a secular Jerusalem family, Leef studied film at university in Tel Aviv, then worked waiting tables and video editing. But the struggles of everyday Israelis led her to want to take a stronger role in society. "Having a roof over your head is such a basic need that solving today's problem is for everyone—it's not a right-wing, left-wing issue," she says. "I felt for a long time that I had lost my voice and I feel that I am getting it back. The country and state should work for me, not me for them."
In 2014, Leef evaluated the status of her actions. “If nothing else, the protests changed the ‘conversation’ in Israel; now people are talking about social issues. But it takes time for a social change to take shape. We will be able to measure this change in 20 years or so.”
To see an interview with Daphni Leef, click here.
Sources: “Daphni Leef: How a woman in a tent became Israel’s top story,” Jewish Chronicle, August 4, 2011; “July 14: Occupy Israel,” Jewish Currents; “Israel’s Protest Queen Daphni Leef Isn’t Prime Minister – Yet,” Forward, April 20, 2014.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Daphni Leef inspires Occupy Israel." (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/14/2011/daphni-leef-inspires-occupy-israel>.