Volunteer with Eritrean toddler at community center 390.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
On a main street in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, volunteers on Sunday
put the finishing touches on an Eritrean women’s community center, which they
said will be the first of its kind serving the community.
The center will
provide a daycare program for Eritrean children and later, workshops on the
Hebrew language, contraception and domestic abuse, according to Sara Robinson,
who proposed the idea during a meeting with an Eritrean female activist earlier
“We wanted to create a daycare that was more up to standards;
most of the ones that they can afford are not up to such standards,” said
Robinson, the refugee rights coordinator for Amnesty International
Robinson said the center will charge NIS 600 per month for
daycare and hopes to have one caretaker watching 10 children the first month,
eventually reaching three employees and 30 children.
Along the way they
will have to balance the need to comply with standards with the need to remain
economically accessible to community members.
The center is located in
what Robinson described as a former artists loft that was in a hellish state of
disrepair when she and the rest of the crew began renovating the place earlier
There was an ancient, defunct air conditioning unit sticking
out of a hole in the concrete wall, several risqué posters from men’s magazines
and the stench and filth left behind by the artists’ five dogs. Over the course
of the past few weeks, volunteers cleaned the building from top to bottom, put
in new flooring, painted and fixed the lights and installed ceiling fans. They
also acquired furniture through Facebook and secondhand websites.
they have a colorful yet modest 80 square meter, two-story facility and are
receiving help in paying the NIS 4,600 monthly rent, partly through a
1,000-pound monthly grant from an Eritrean human rights organization in
There are no signs on the outside of the building and volunteers
are looking to put up a bamboo fence for privacy and security. This is
impossible to overlook in a neighborhood where, in one night in May, five
different buildings housing migrants – including a daycare – were targeted in a
string of Molotov cocktail attacks.
“Security worries me because these
things happen to many refugee places in Israel,” said “Almaz” a 29-year-old
Eritrean asylum seeker who will be running the center.
“You can’t not
anything because you’re worried about Molotov cocktails,” added Robinson.