THE JERUSALEM ROAST EXCLUSIVE: For the past month, former National Union MK and No. 2 on the failed Strong Israel Knesset list Michael Ben-Ari has been living in Lewinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, The Jerusalem Roast has learned.

Ben-Ari’s downward spiral began on election night, January 22, when Strong Israel failed to clear the electoral threshold to make the 19th Knesset, leaving Ben-Ari and fellow party candidate Arieh Eldad with few options left in the political world.

A plastic surgeon, Eldad should be able to find gainful employment, but with only an MA in Talmud and a Ph.D in Land of Israel studies and little relevant nonparliamentary work experience, Ben-Ari could face a bleaker future. A source close to Ben-Ari said that after election night he began looking into the possibility of applying for a work visa to the United States, but then recalled that his last attempt was blocked by the US State Department because of his membership in the banned Kach party.

With few options left, and with his parliamentary office in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood a shuttered remnant of torchlight marches gone past, Ben-Ari found himself sleeping on a cardboard mat sandwiched between African asylum seekers at the Lewinsky Park playground only a few days after election night.

One of those refugees, a 24-year-old Darfur native named Bashir, said he and other Africans did not know that Ben-Ari was a far-right MK known for being arguably the most outspoken critic of the African migrant community in Israel.

Bashir said he and others assumed Ben-Ari was an illegal Palestinian worker hiding out Tel Aviv, mainly because he was always seen carrying his worldly belongings in a cellophane bag and would converse with them in Arabic.

“It’s very strange, but most nights he screams in Arabic in his sleep. I don’t know how you say it in Hebrew, but he just shouts out ‘no loyalty, no citizenship’ over and over, all night sometimes,” Bashir said.

With no income and unable to find work, Ben-Ari has had to rely on the kindness of strangers, much like the homeless African asylum seekers who call Lewinsky Park home.

He’s been seen on a few occasions sitting in on free English lessons at the Lewinsky Park library and on most nights after sunset he lines up for soup given out by donors at the park.

Yigal Shalosh, an Israeli who runs one of the soup charities, said the volunteers know it’s Ben-Ari, and that he’s really not fooling anyone, and mentioned a particular occasion earlier in February when he stood in line in blackface, having smeared mud on his face after a midwinter rainfall in attempt to pass as African.

“We just thought it was a kinda silly and racist stunt, kinda like his political career,” Shalosh said.

Happy Purim from The Jerusalem Post!


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