Activists ‘liberate’ abandoned TA building, sleep at site

Dozens of activists take over 3,000 square meter building, say it is now “public place for housing, culture, and community.”

By
August 22, 2011 20:48
3 minute read.
"Occupied" building on Frug Street

"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.”

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.”

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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 provocation.”

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.

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