Migrants at Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park 390.
(photo credit: Tamir Kalifa)
The Neveh Sha’anan pedestrian mall in south Tel Aviv hummed at a muted pace at
noon on Tuesday, the third day of a nationwide strike by the African
The street just north of the metropolis’s
central bus station has been the center of the community for several years. On
Tuesday, thousands of its members were meeting a couple of blocks away at
Lewinsky Park, leaving most of the stores on the walkway
Israeli Yisrael Dan hustled around his cellphone store,
helping customers and taking orders on his phone, alone behind the counter for
the third day. He has three Eritrean workers with work permits who are taking
part in the strike, and since Sunday, he’s been working from morning to
“I can’t keep working like this for long. My workers make NIS
10,000 a month, but even for that money I can’t get an Israeli to work here,”
Dan said, shrugging his shoulders.
When asked what he thinks of the
protests, he said that while the Interior Ministry needs to check the migrants’
asylum requests “I really don’t feel solidarity with them, from what I
understand most of them aren’t refugees and they just came here to make
It was a common sentiment on Tuesday; shop-owners expressed a
fondness for employees or neighboring African store-owners, but quickly added
that they don’t believe they’re refugees and that the state needs to enforce the
law. They also said that with all due respect, protesting won’t make a
“If the government’s made up its mind, what difference does
it make? They don’t care when Israelis are protesting, you think they’ll care
when they [African migrants] do?” asked Moshe, a shoe store owner a few doors
Moshe said the Sudanese shop-owner next door told him that he was
closing and going on strike because he was afraid that other Africans would
vandalize his store or attack him, and that intimidation drove others to close
A native of Iran, Moshe said that he knows what it’s like to be
a refugee, but that he doesn’t see the Africans as being in a situation similar
to his when he left Iran for Israel.
He also said that they’re good
people, except for a small minority who drink and fight and commit crimes,
causing the public to fear and dislike the rest of them.
“Most of them
are good people who came to make money and then leave, but this whole thing
isn’t regulated,” he said.
David, who owns a cellular phone store near
the corner of Har Tzion and Neveh Sha’anan streets, dismissed the protests
outright, saying “they can go on strike forever if they want, it won’t
The landlords are pigs, they’ll just rent out the stores to
He said he hoped the government would deport them all, but
admitted that they form most of his customers.
Down the street at
Lewinsky Park a few hours later, Abed and three men from Baka al-Gharbiya, near
Hadera, scurried around the crowd, picking up trash and changing out the garbage
cans next to the basketball court. Abed, a contractor for the Tel Aviv
Municipality, said that for the past three days his eight Sudanese workers have
been on strike, so he’s had to improvise.
“The Sudanese are on strike so
I had to bring in Arabs,” he said, adding that the three men would be staying in
Tel Aviv until the strike ended and they go back to their village.
also said he was told by a couple of his Sudanese employees that they felt
intimidated into taking part in the strike.
Like Abed, employers across
the Tel Aviv area and elsewhere have had to get creative, working extra
The strike has seen many restaurant managers and bartenders back
in the kitchen, washing dishes.