Jerusalem Tent 311.
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
More than 35 families in Jerusalem are still languishing in squalid tent
encampments across the city and say they have nowhere else to go, just a day
after the cabinet passed the Trajtenberg report, which offered suggestions for
the government to affect widespread socioeconomic change.
As the focus of
the summer protests shifts into the political arena and the final tents were
removed from Rothschild Blvd., the homeless families are worried that their dire
situation will be forgotten.
“This struggle is personal; it comes from
the depths of my heart and serious distress,” said Noga Stern, a mother of eight
who has lived with her husband and children in tents in Gan Hasus (Horse Park)
and Gan Ha’ir (City Park) since mid- July.
There are tent cities in Gan
Ha’atzmaut, Gan Ha’ir, Gan Sacher and Kiryat Yovel.
Some of the tent
residents have met with representatives from the municipality, the Construction
and Housing Ministry and semi-public housing companies that run the public
housing in Jerusalem, but the meetings have not reached any
The municipality offered a basket of benefits over a month
ago to the families, which included a one-time grant of NIS 2,000 and breaks of
up to NIS 1,000 on their rent, a gesture the activists said did not go far
enough to solving their problems.
Most of the families left in the tent
cities have been on the waitlist for public housing in Jerusalem for years, and
say they can no longer stay with relatives or friends while waiting for their
name to come up for one of the scarce spots in public housing.
who can give a hand to help with the issue of public housing needs to slam their
hand down on the table and say, ‘This is not acceptable!’” said Valerie Briga, a
Jerusalem resident who has lived for three months in a tent with her two
children, aged 10 and 13.
“They passed the Trajtenberg recommendations,
but people are still going to stay poor, and meanwhile, we’re trying to figure
out how to survive until tomorrow,” said Briga.
The Gan Ha’ir tent city
is strewn with discarded clothes, trash, mattresses and broken toys. Flies buzz
ceaselessly around the common areas, and the residents are exhausted by many
months of urban camping and constant bickering with one another as they wait for
a solution. Briga and Stern said they worried about their children being exposed
to drugs and alcohol while living in the downtown city park.
that municipality representatives have visited them to try to convince the tent
encampments to unite in Gan Sacher, a move the residents resent as an attempt to
move them out of sight and out of mind. Yehuda Peretz, a Jerusalem resident who
has been living in Gan Ha’atzmaut for three months, accused the municipality of
trying to make a “ghetto” by uniting all the tent cities in Gan
“We’re not afraid of Barkat; he’s not moving even our
bellybuttons,” said Peretz.
“They call us ‘the tough seeds,’ because
people here are ready to take him down. There are criminals here who
don’t think about consequences,” he said, adding that violence would probably
ensue if the municipality attempted to evict them from the park.
municipality spokesman said the city was in constant contact with the various
tent cities, and confirmed that the city hoped to move all of the tent cities to
Gan Sacher in the near future.
“[The move] will allow a balance between
their needs to express their protest and the maintenance of public order,” said
He added that the municipality was trying to help the
Construction and Housing Ministry find more permanent housing solutions for the
In Gan Ha’ir, residents worried that the municipality would try
to evict them after Succot, but vowed that they would stay in protest tents
until they had their own apartments, even if that meant living in tents over the
winter. Stern and Briga were already brainstorming ways to stay warm during the
coming months, including putting smaller tents inside a large army tent to avoid
the heavy rainfall.