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Israeli pocketbook woes awaken a dormant protest spirit [VIDEO]

More than 250,000 Israelis of all stripes, beset by economic woes, took to the streets this weekend. They mark the largest protest movement in recent memory.

Thousands of Israelis march during a protest against the rising cost of living in Israel, in central Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 6. Angry over the ever increasing cost of living, Israelis poured en masse into the streets of major cities Saturday night in a big show of force by the protest movement that is sweeping the country and proving to be a real challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Oded Balilty/AP

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Israel is awash in the largest public protest movement in recent memory after more than 250,000 took to the streets over the weekend to demand reforms to ease the economic burden on the middle class.

The mass demonstrations, an odd jumble of everyone from leftists to ultra-Orthodox Jews, mark a new activist spirit among young Israelis who have grown increasingly indifferent toward their government.

Protester Oren Solo says answering a Facebook invitation to protest housing prices was his first taste of political activism since peace marches after the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, when he was a teenager.

Three weeks after coming out onto the boulevard, Mr. Solo still resides in the tent city, having found common purpose with other young people struggling to make ends meet.

"We talk about these issues all the time at home in the [living room]," he says, "but we never went out and did anything about it." Until now.

Tamar Hermann, a public opinion expert at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem says that Israel’s younger generation is still more politically aware than peers in other countries, but they are less inclined to become involved with political parties or political youth movements than their parents. (Editor's note: The original version misstated Ms. Hermann's affiliation.)

"Compared to 30 or 40 years ago they are less interested in establishment-style politics. They see the political system as inattentive, malfunctioning and corrupt, which is not so much different [from] the way people in other liberal democracies see their political systems," she says. In recent years, youths have supported niche parties as protest votes instead of mainstream parties that they can’t tell apart.


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