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