Givat Amal demollition.
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
For Ruth Kaufman, Givat Amal was much more than a neighborhood; it was a village, full of family, right in the center of Tel Aviv.
The 78-year-old veteran resident sat with tears in her eyes late Monday morning, hours after eight families were evicted from the neighborhood and their homes, including her own, were demolished following a lengthy court battle.
By late afternoon she said she’d “spoken to the whole world” about what happened to her home, and was growing weary. Still, she opened up about how she was born in 1936 in Tel Aviv to a family that had lived in Hebron for generations, until they fled after the 1929 pogrom against the city’s Jewish residents.
They then made Neve Tzedek in south Tel Aviv home, until the state relocated them to Givat Amal in 1948, to escape fighting in Jaffa during the War of Independence.
On the hilltop that was then in a pastoral setting far north of the center of town, Kaufman said her family and the other recent arrivals set up a community on the remains of an Arab village whose residents had only recently fled during the war.
“We were here before all these neighborhoods that you now see all around here, and now they say I ‘invaded’ here,” she said Monday, looking at the piles of wood, corrugated steel and concrete where only hours earlier the houses of eight families had stood.
Two of Kaufman’s four children live abroad and the other two lived in houses that were leveled on Monday. She said that for the coming week, she and many other former residents of Givat Amal will be staying in rooms provided for them at the Rimonim Hotel in Ramat Gan, after which she said she’ll have to rely on the kindness of friends and extended family to provide her with a roof over her head.
The pavement between her and the rubble was covered in black soot, where in the early hours of the morning residents and supporters burned tires as hundreds of police moved in to carry out the eviction. Residents had set up couches and tables and a few meters away one man had pitched a large canvas tent where he said he’d been living for some time, though after Monday, he said he’d have no choice but to pack up and leave. The neighborhood was established by the state during the War of Independence in order to help protect the outskirts of Tel Aviv and in the decades since became swallowed up by the expanding city. While Tel Aviv grew and became “the city that never sleeps,” Givat Amal remained a shantytown of sorts in northern Tel Aviv, where shacks with steel roofs held down by cinderblocks stood in the shadows of the luxury towers of the “Park Tzameret” district.
The families who moved there at the beginning never received legal ownership rights and have now raised three generations in the neighborhood.
The fight over ownership came to a head when the land was bought by tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, who decided to turn it into a luxury residential complex. A number of residents were compensated by Tshuva back in September, but the residents of the section bought by the brothers Yaki and Moti Kozinhoff said they received no compensation before the evictions on Monday.
A number of MKs made their way to Givat Amal on Monday, representing both the right and left wings of the political spectrum.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) holed up inside one of the houses Monday morning and took to Facebook to call on people to join him.
“Police have arrived and the evacuation of Givat Amal has begun. Please come to the site. I am here with the residents in their homes, there is violence, and no people are permitted to enter from outside,” he wrote. “I am calling on the police to act with restraint and with tolerance. Eight families should not be thrown in the street without any compensation. The Construction and Housing Ministry and the Tel Aviv Municipality must intervene.” Other MKs who took up the cause included Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and Miri Regev (Likud) from the right, and Dov Henin of the Hadash party.
Police arrested two people during the evacuation, though otherwise it was relatively quiet. By late afternoon most of the press had cleared out and a group of around a dozen special patrol officers sat on plastic chairs drinking coffee while the demolitions continued.
One resident, David Lahiani, threw his hands up and said the state had written off the people who called the community home. “This was our home and now they’re throwing us out like Arabs.”