Holon Jesse Cohen burning couch_311.
(photo credit: ben hartman)
Tires and a couch were set on fire on a major thoroughfare in Holon on
Wednesday, as residents of a campsite in the city’s Jesse Cohen slum vowed to
fight back against a rumored eviction of their tent city.
was highly tense on Wednesday afternoon, as dozens of local residents, including
entire families and a large number of children, waited to face down police they
heard were coming to evacuate them.
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Attorney Nissan Zechariya, head of
the Jesse Cohen neighborhood committee, said that he received a phone call from
the Holon Municipality early Wednesday morning who told him that they were going
to come and demolish the wooden structures that he said were built at the site
over the past weeks.
The shacks house entire families, who Zechariya said
are not able to sleep in tents alone. Zechariya said he then got the word out to
community youth volunteer Rafi Musari, who made a few calls and by late morning
there were already dozens of locals waiting for the police to arrive.
don’t understand why they wanted to do this, why not just leave the shacks
there? We have always acted peacefully, but this caused people to lose their
cool and go crazy,” Zechariya said, adding “this isn’t a rock and roll protest,
these are people with very, very serious problems who have nothing to
“This is not a protest of the middle class who cant make ends meet,
these are people living in the gutter and it’s not smart to come and mess with
them. It could all spin out of control in a second.”
Musari agreed with
the sentiment, saying “this isn’t a reality show, this isn’t
It’s people in real serious distress.”
When asked if
they will use violence against police, he said “they will fight with everything
In the mid-afternoon, two municipality clerks arrived and
were surrounded by locals who shouted that they had nowhere else to stay and
would not let the demolitions happen. The clerks left within a few minutes after
telling people that they would go check about getting them a permit from the
city hall for the structures.
Arguments then broke out in the crowd
between those who feared that it was merely a ploy to get people to leave, and
those who said they should block off the roads and face off with police while
they had the numbers to do so.
At this point, a few of the young men
dragged a couch and several tires into the street and set them alight, sending
giant plumes of black smoke into the air. It took police around 20 minutes to
arrive, at which point a single officer surveyed the scene, as children threw
plums and a few pieces of wood at him as he sat in his patrol car.
fire was eventually put out by firefighters, and as a group of YASSAM anti-riot
police watched the scene the announcement made its way through the tent city
that the municipality had backed down, and that no eviction would take
All those present vowed to rebuild again and again if police and
municipal clerks in fact returned. Perhaps owing to what they describe as a
desperate situation, those at the campsite vowed to take extreme measures if
their newfound homes were in danger.
In one of the tents, where a couple
named Rafi and Osnat are staying with their three children, Osnat pointed to a
gas tank and said that if police come to demolish her home she will gather her
children around the tank and threaten to blow the shack sky-high, just to show
police how serious they are.
David Bodarsky, 32, said “people here have
nowhere to live and we will fight and draw blood if we have to. The State of
Israel doesn’t care about the people here, we’re asking for humanitarian
assistance, maybe the rest of the world will care.”
Bodarsky, who said he
has been homeless and in and out of prison since he was 12 years old, said “we
hope that the police do come so that they can see how serious we are, that we
aren’t like the campsite on Rothschild.”
“I’m ready to die here, I’ve got
nothing left here, I could even be willing to blow myself up with a gas tank
next to the police, I just don’t care anymore.”