The social protest party


At the north end of Rothschild Blvd., several rugs lay spread out, covering the grassy median between the street’s lanes. At one end of them, a few young people sat at folding tables, typing on laptops and calling out to passersby. At the other end stood equipment for a band – a drum set, a few microphones and amps.

Above them, a black canopy blocked Tel Aviv’s shining January sun. Somewhere in the middle, a homeless man slept on a makeshift pillow.

“We have a lot of people who were in the protest,” said Lior Ben-Ari, referring to the social protests that took place in that very spot a year and a half ago, when thousands of Israelis camped out on Rothschild Blvd., demonstrating for a lower cost of living. Ben-Ari is a campaign volunteer for Eretz Chadasha, the political party aiming to take the mantle of the 2011 social protest and translate it into political power. He explained that the folding tables and laptops were the party’s command center.

 “We don’t have any problems with" the homeless man, Ben-Ari said. “This is a public space.”

Soon after we spoke, a heavy metal band began to play.

The primary goal of Eretz Chadasha – which means “New Land” – is to combat corruption in government and lessen the influence wealthy people have on politicians. Ben-Ari said the party wants "to create chaos in the Knesset," which would somehow lead to "more transparency."

Eretz Chadasha hasn’t even shown up in any of the mainstream polls, but Ben-Ari and other Eretz Chadasha supporters firmly believe that the party is gaining momentum and will earn at least a few seats in the Knesset.

Last night, the party held an Occupy-style event. Another band played as party candidates and volunteers exhorted the crowd.

Eretz Chadasha hopes to capitalize on the unusually high number of voters who say they’re still undecided – 15 percent, according to some polls.

“The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.,” said Linda Sasson, fourth on Eretz Chadasha’s list. “We have that time to take this energy and revolution to the ballot box. Put it in your Facebook statuses. Put it on Twitter.”

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