J'lem: Independence park tent encampment evicted

Municipality inspectors, police dismantle tents just a day and a half afte activists try to recreate last year's "Camp No Choice."

Banner reads: Desperation burns, who is next? 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Banner reads: Desperation burns, who is next? 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem Municipality inspectors and police evicted a tent encampment in Jerusalem’s Independence Park early Monday morning, just a day-and-a-half after activists from last year’s tent protests attempted to recreate “Camp No Choice.”
Ovadia Ben-Avraham was sleeping in his tent at 6:30 a.m. when a dozen inspectors and policemen burst into the encampment. After refusing to leave his tent, he said six policemen dragged him outside and within a minute the entire encampment was dismantled.
“We are in the same situation as the man who burned himself in Tel Aviv,” said Ben-Avraham, referring to 58-year-old Haifa resident Moshe Silman, who was two weeks away from homelessness. Ben-Avraham said most of the dozen people in Camp No Choice are facing homelessness on August 1 as the year-long housing grants they received last year expire.
“Camp No Choice was created last year in Independence Park, and so we wanted to recreate it in the same place,” said Ben-Avraham. Most of the people in this year’s encampment slept in Independence Park last summer as well. The tents were set up on Saturday night, the one-year anniversary of the social protest movement.
A municipality spokeswoman said the city “sees great importance in providing the right to protest,” and that the activists are welcome to create a new encampment across from the Knesset in the Rose Garden. This is one of the sites approved for protest encampments following last summer, when tent cities sprung up around the capital during the social protests. The spokeswoman also said that the city notified them that they would be evicting the tents before the eviction occurred.
Rabbis for Human Rights special projects director Rabbi Arik Ascherman said it was due to the “vicious cycle of poverty” that the same people who were homeless last summer are facing a similar situation again. The Ma’abara housing activism organization is planning a solidarity march on Tuesday to draw attention to the imminent homelessness faced by the Camp No Choice activists.