South TA tent protesters vow to stay a day after eviction

Dozens set up small-scale tent city protest in Lewinsky Park; demonstrators face off with municipality clerk who repeatedly warns against pitching tents.

July 26, 2011 05:59
3 minute read.
SOUTH TEL AVIVIANS hold their own tent protest

South Tel Aviv tent city 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Dozens set up a small-scale tent city protest in south Tel Aviv’s Lewinsky Park on Monday, less than a day after municipal workers expelled a similar protest at the same spot.

Demonstrators began arriving at the park at 7 p.m., and eventually faced off with a single clerk from the municipality who repeatedly warned them that if they pitched any tents they would be confiscated.

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At times a heated and to some degree comical backand- forth then ensued between the clerk and several protestors, who eventually managed to set up six tents in a semi-circle, before the clerk gave up and retreated several meters away, where he remained with two colleagues from the municipality.

Chanting “South Tel Aviv wants social justice,” protestors took turns making remarks into a single megaphone, while a few children of African migrants helped paint and color protest signs.

When asked why they made a separate protest in south Tel Aviv instead of joining the protest on Rothschild, residents spoke of the particular problems facing south Tel Aviv, which they said don’t end just with climbing rent prices, but also with what they described as a policy of official neglect practiced by municipal authorities towards the south side.

Shula Keshet, 49, a resident of the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, said she saw no reason to join forces with the tent protest further north on Rothschild, started by 26- year-old Tel Avivian Daphni Leef 10 days ago, to protest the rising cost of housing in Israel.

“Our home is here in south Tel Aviv. Our problems are not only about housing, but also that we have housing here without proper infrastructure.

There is simply neglect here in every way ...

We can’t remain like this; there are homeless in the streets here, refugees who have nowhere to live, elderly in need of housing assistance.

No one will force us to Rothschild, our home is here, and there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to protest here.”

Keshet added, “there is no reason that here, in the poorest neighborhood in Tel Aviv that they’ll come and tell us we can’t protest.”

The protestors spoke of a feeling of discrimination towards the residents of South Tel Aviv, and questioned why the massive and ever-growing tent city on Rothschild has been allowed while a permit for the miniscule version in Tel Aviv’s blighted and neglected south side has been denied.

Aharon Maduel, a city council member from the City for All faction, said, “Of course we see the discrimination here very clearly. [Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai] lets it take place on Rothschild but not down here, we’re not sure why, but we see it as a clear form of discrimination.”

Speaking to the crowd later in the evening, Maduel, a resident of south Tel Aviv’s Kfar Shalem neighborhood said, “here are the single mothers, the drug addicts, the Sudanese [refugees] who sleep here in the day and night on the benches and the stairwells, Huldai knows that a tent protest here is a legitimate protest ... I call on all of you not to give up, even if the police come to break up the tent city, we will win eventually.”

Protestors vowed to stay at the site even if police were to come later in the night to evict them by force, as they did at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning.

In a statement released on Monday, the Tel Aviv City Hall said that it “respects and allows the tent protest. The place that has been allocated for this is Rothschild Boulevard and we explained this to the protestors at Lewinsky Park. The tent city was not evicted immediately and we gave the protestors time to leave under their own volition and those who chose not to do so were evicted in the morning. All of their equipment will be returned to them.”

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