Hatikvah tent encampment cleared in south Tel Aviv

Tent city residents say they have nowhere to go, neighborhood residents argue that tent city residents were opportunists; 11 arrested at city hall.

By
January 15, 2012 19:51
3 minute read.
Tent city set up on Rothschild Blvd. in TA [file]

Tent City 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

 
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Police shut down the tent city in south Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on Sunday morning, five months after it was set up by disadvantaged and homeless people protesting housing prices.

During the eviction, four people were arrested for violating restraining orders barring them from the encampment.

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Hatikva tent city residents await eviction

Police denied reports that those arrested included Stav Shaffir, one of the founders of the J14 social issues movement, who was arrested at a protest outside the Hatikva encampment a week ago.

By late morning, municipal barricades encircled the grassy expanse where the tent city had been located since August. Dozens of birds picked through the rubbish atop the mud left behind by the protesters.

Yitzhak Allon, who said he slept at the encampment as a “guest” for the past four months, surveyed the scene as a group of neighborhood residents chatted about the evictions.

Allon, 52, criticized police for “bringing hundreds of officers like they were going to fight the Syrian army or something.”

He said the eviction was carried with very little resistance and that it was over almost as soon as it began. Things happened so quickly that Allon lost a few blankets he had left in a tent.

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Itzik Amsalem, head of the encampment, said police had ordered him to three days of house arrest for violating the restraining order barring him from the park.

“The authorities need to check these people and see who needs help and find them assistance, but not all of the people here needed help,” said “Tamar” a middle-aged neighborhood resident who asked not to be named.

“They need to help the weak ones, but those who come here to try and profit off the protest are a different thing entirely,” she said.

A number of Hatikva residents said that the overwhelming majority of those at the tent city were looking to piggyback on the protest in order to win housing from the state. A number joked about the white SUV that a tent city resident often drove back and forth to the encampment to deliver supplies.

“Ten percent of the people here [at the tent city] were desperate people who need help. The other 90% were scam artists,” said Reuven, a 68-year-old pensioner and lifelong Hatikva resident.

Reuven said there were people he knew from the neighborhood who have homes, but came to the tent city and pretended to be homeless in an effort to get additional housing from the state.

Reuven spoke with a young man named Yuval, who said he was happy the encampment had been cleared. Since the summer, Yuval and his mother had not been able to have their weekly barbecues at the park because of the tent city.

“There was all types of stuff going on here, drugs, you name it. Hopefully we’ll get our park back,” he said.

The municipality said that “in keeping with a decision by the district court, the city of Tel Aviv is evacuating the tents that remain at Hatikva Park. The municipality allowed the encampment to remain temporarily because of the issues faced by the tens of thousands of homeless living in Israel.”

Because of the hardships facing the Hatikva tent city residents, the city allowed them to remain far longer than at other tent cities in Tel Aviv, which were evacuated beginning in September, the municipality said.

“Hatikva Park is not suitable for human habitation, especially during the winter, and is the only ‘green lung’ in the area accessible to the residents of Hatikva and surrounding areas. Because of this, and due to the city’s responsibility to the public as a whole, the municipality is working to return the park to the use of the entire public.”

After the eviction, activists announced plans to hold a protest outside the Tel Aviv Municipality building at 4 p.m.

Police arrested 11 people for disorderly conduct at the protest on Sunday evening.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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