About 100 people gathered in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest an arson
attack on a building with more than 50 foreign workers a day earlier.
arson was one of the most violent attacks against migrants in the past month and
the first sign that the anti- African sentiment is expanding from Tel Aviv to
There has been a rise in tensions between African migrants and
Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv in the past month. In Jerusalem, four people
were injured on Monday morning when an arsonist set fire to the first floor
hallway of a building on Jaffa Road.
“This is an extremist act – to burn
a man to death,” said MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) at the protest on
“This is against a human being. It doesn’t matter where they’re
from, it could be there is a political solution, but they’re human beings,” he
told the crowd.
“We saw what was happening in south Tel Aviv – the
writing was on the wall, and we knew that this was going to end with murder,”
said Gadi Gvaryahu, the head of the Bright Tag anti-racism
Firefighters believe that the location of the fire on the
first floor hallway was meant to kill or seriously injure the residents of the
building, rather than scare them. Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Asaf Abras
called the blaze “a death trap” and warned that it could have ended in
“If we had taken them out in plastic body bags, the whole world
would have been disgusted,” said Gvaryahu.
Ten of the building’s
residents also attended the protest. They said they were heartened to see
Israelis who did not support the attack.
“I won’t say all of Israel is
not good, it was just one person who made the fire,” said 22-year-old Alula from
Ethiopia. “They say the same thing about Africans, there’s one person who drinks
a lot because he can’t work and lives outside and they see everyone as
Alula’s hand was injured in the fire, forcing him to quit his job
as a busboy at a restaurant. He doesn’t know how he’ll work for the next
month. Additionally, he lost his salary from the last month, nearly NIS
5,000 in cash, which was burned during the fire.
Residents from the first
floor apartment, which was the most damaged in the fire, said their apartment
was still uninhabitable and they did not know where they would sleep. At
the last minute, the municipality arranged a one-night hotel stay for nine people
on Monday night, but it was unclear if this would be continued despite efforts
from Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu (Meretz).
Residents also had no food and no
way to cook, and a man named Yakeub from Eritrea had untreated burns on his
hands and no money to pay for a doctor to look at them. “I used Colgate
toothpaste to keep it clean,” he said.
“The real tragedy is that no one
is taking responsibility for these people,” said city councilwoman Laura Wharton
(Meretz), who holds the public health portfolio in the municipality.
emergency situations such as a fire, the city sends an “emergency response team”
including psychologists and social workers. A municipal spokeswoman said social
workers were in touch with the residents to see what they needed. Residents said
municipality workers came on Monday but that no one followed up on
Electricity was restored to the apartment on Tuesday and the
stairs had been repainted, allowing some of the residents to return.