"Occupied" building on Frug Street 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Dozens of activists took over an abandoned building in the heart of Tel Aviv on Monday, declaring the long-vacant complex “a liberated building.”
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The 3,000-square-meter building in question at 16-18 Dov Hoz Street, has been renamed by some activists as “the peoples’ house,” and by Monday afternoon was covered with signs describing it’s new status as a “public place for housing, culture, and community.”
The building, which was built in 1938, was once used as a school and a women’s dormitory, but has laid vacant since 1999. It has long been a bizarre, completely out of place, graffiti covered eyesore, more befitting a horror movie set than the leafy neighborhood it lies in a block from Dizengoff Street.
In a flier with the headline “A Liberated Building,” organizers said they “have no intention of taking over the building for private purposes, and are not trying to claim any sort of ownership of it. As part of the wave of protests sweeping across Israel, we are inviting anyone who wants to contribute to the return of this asset to the public to take part.”
At the building on Monday, there were those who spoke of turning the
complex into an artists workshop and museum, while others said it should
be used as a community center or for public housing.
Shira Zeitner said that the idea wasn’t only to create a community
center, but also to send a message that “in this city there are hundreds
of buildings that are not being used while at the same time there are
people who have nowhere to live. The city needs to take care of this.”
“This was all a word-of-mouth initiative of people who wanted to come
here to make a community building that will serve the people,” said
squatter Julian Feder, sitting in a round table discussion on the third
floor of the building. He also said that a number of the squatters
planned to sleep at the building.
Meters away, a few bowls of food were set up on a table, in what
appeared to be the first step in setting up a rudimentary kitchen like
at most of the tent cities. Throughout the building’s three floors,
random young people spray-painted the walls, while in a few rooms others
mopped the floors.
The Tel Aviv Municipality issued a response to the initiative on Monday,
saying “the infiltration [of the building] is illegal and is a criminal
offense. In addition, the building in question is dangerous and the
infiltrators are placing their lives at risk for the sake of cheap
They added, “it’s possible to count on two hands the number of municipal
buildings that are being left unused.” In a jab at unnamed politicians,
the statement ends, “it’s a shame that there are public officials who
are inciting to crime in order to make this legitimate and beautiful
protest, which is in keeping with Tel Aviv values, into criminal acts.”
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv Police said they have no intention of evacuating the
squatters from the building at the moment, unless they are instructed
to do so by a court ruling.