100 tent activists break into building in Jerusalem

“People aren’t going to leave here like lambs to the slaughter,” says protester.

Kiryat Yovel squatters 311 (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Kiryat Yovel squatters 311
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Just as the students in the tent city in downtown Jerusalem’s Gan HaSus were packing up their seven-week old tent city, nearly 100 tent protesters demanding public housing broke into an abandoned student dormitory in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood and refused to move despite an eviction order.
The 32 families, who came from various tent cities around the capital and Mevasseret Zion, have until Tuesday morning at 6 AM to evacuate the building.
The protesters said they will not leave until they are given housing solutions, and threatened that if the police tried to evacuate them they would use violence and possibly explosives in order to stay in the building.
“People aren’t going to leave here like lambs to the slaughter,” said one inhabitant named Beny, a Jerusalem resident and former Black Panther.
“You can’t evict these families, it’s winter soon and these people have nowhere to go,” he said. There are five babies and five pregnant women currently living in the building.
“We’ll prevent any attempt to disturb the peace, but we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” said Jerusalem police deputy spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi.
The dormitories were scouted out by the protesters over a week ago, broken into, and given minor renovations, explained Yoni Ran Cohen, who was evicted from his apartment in Mevasseret after falling behind on the rent and started the local tent city six weeks ago. On Thursday night, a mass of activists gathered to break into together, and on Saturday night even more people moved in.
On Sunday, representatives of Hebrew University filed a complaint with police over the squatters, and police served the residents with a 48-hour eviction notice, which expires on Tuesday morning. The university has placed private guards at the entrance of a second dormitory next door.
The move from tents to illegal squatting came at a time demonstrators with other options are leaving their tents. “These people have nowhere to go. The students can go home to their rented apartments, but to kick these people out means to put them out on the sidewalk,” said Ran Cohen.
“It was always known that the student problem [with lack of housing] exists, but it’s not as difficult, and it’s not as authentic,” said Ran Cohen. “But it was also known that they’ll leave the struggle, and leave the real struggle to the true tent people. These are the people who have real problems,” he said.
The inhabitants demanded to know why the building, which has been abandoned for years, hasn’t been put to better use.
Hebrew University spokeswoman Orit Sulitzeanu said that the buildings are waiting to be renovated and are currently unsafe for inhabitants, leading the University to file a complaint with the police. Sulitzeanu said that the University still wants to use them as dorms for the campus in Ein Kerem. She added that she hoped the situation would be resolved “quickly and in good spirits.”