Greater investment in Jewish institutions can help restore a “Jewish character”
to areas of south Tel Aviv that have seen a high influx of African migrants in
recent years, activists said Tuesday, during the dedication of a
national-religious establishment in the Shapira neighborhood.
is to bring back the Jews who lived here and restore these places that they
prayed in. Unfortunately, it’s common for people to talk about taking care of
the Eritreans and Sudanese, but we need to worry about the Jews first, and this
is the goal of the hesder yeshiva,” Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli
Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said at a short ceremony to mark the opening of a
hesder yeshiva branch at the corner of Frenkel Street and Tshelnov Street in
south Tel Aviv.
The branch, part of a project called “Righteousness in
the South” (“Tzedek B’darom”) will be located inside the Beit Marmarosh
synagogue, and will be run by Rabbi Ariel Bareli of the Mishpat L’am legal
institute of Sderot’s hesder yeshiva.
Bareli said Tuesday that the branch
will bring in students from the Sderot yeshiva who will live and volunteer in
south Tel Aviv and study at the center. They will also give lectures for
students from across Tel Aviv, Bareli said, which will focus on “social justice
and Jewish law, with an emphasis on the refugee issue.”
He said the
approach to the African migrant issue must be to encourage their continued
deportation while also helping provide for those who are already located inside
In a Mishpat L’am position paper on the issue, which Bareli
handed out, the organization writes that Israel must first protect its ambition
to be the Jewish homeland and “understand that at the moment there is no place
to include a foreign population.”
The paper also includes a passage from
the Talmud stating that it is permitted to rent houses to gentiles in the Land
of Israel as long as they do not form neighborhoods, which it defines as a
grouping of three houses or more.
“In conclusion, as part of our moral
responsibility to uphold the vision of the prophets, we must use the legal
methods at the disposal of the authorities to encourage emigration of those who
penetrated Israel’s borders illegally. This does not diverge from our
responsibility to ensure their ability to maintain their basic needs in our
country,” the position paper states.
The project’s program, which Bareli
handed out, states it will include “tours for groups of students and adults in
the synagogues and places of the rich past of south Tel Aviv” as well as
lectures, study groups, and volunteering.
The program says the project –
largely devoted to renovating the synagogue – will cost some NIS 100,000
annually, and that over NIS 60,000 has already been spent on the
Ben-Dahan’s visit came during a tour of south Tel Aviv, in which
he and a handful of local Bayit Yehudi activists were taken to see area
synagogues that tour organizers said had fallen into disrepair as the south side
has in recent years become home to the majority of Israel’s more than 60,000
Included in the tour was a soup kitchen – operated by
the Lasova organization at 18 Tshelnov Street – that feeds several hundred needy
people per day, according to the site’s manager.
Activists who organized
Tuesday’s trip pointed at the building, which housed the Beit Yeshayahu
synagogue from the 1940s until it was renovated by Lasova in 2009, as a symbol
of the type of misuse of synagogues that they hope to scale back with an
increased Jewish presence in the neighborhood.
Lasova, for its part, says
that the building had been abandoned and was a warren for drug users for the
past two decades, before it was renovated.
The visit also included a
former Georgian synagogue on Rosh Pina Street that has become a watering hole
for migrants, a fixture of most tours taken by politicians and public leaders in
south Tel Aviv in recent years.
A former congregant, Yossi Zavitiya, told
the group that a year-and-a-half ago the owner of the building had decided it
would be more lucrative to rent it out as a private business, and that around 15
Georgian families living in the area are waiting for a vacant synagogue a couple
blocks away to be renovated for their congregation to call home – renovations
that Zavitiya said were paid for through a legal settlement with the owner of
the property on Rosh Pina Street.
Standing in the center of the
dilapidated building as two workers – one of them an African migrant – carried
out repair work, one of the Bayit Yehudi activists said the goal of the
renovations and the opening of the hesder yeshiva offshoot is to increase the
Jewish character of the neighborhood “and help draw back Jewish residents after
the Sudanese and Eritreans leave.”
In late August, Interior Minister
Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said that Israel would begin deporting Eritrean and
Sudanese migrants after the High Holy Days.