social protests holon tent city 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Activists from tent cities across Tel Aviv and elsewhere came to Holon’s Jesse Cohen neighborhood on Tuesday, as part of an initiative to make the slum’s tent city a permanent structure fit for a long-term, zero sum protest.
The Jesse Cohen tent city is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, and the several dozen residents include families, ex-convicts and former drug addicts, as well as a few who are all of the above.
Unlike the tenants of the Rothschild tent city, most of those staying at the Jesse Cohen campsite say they are homeless and are demanding nothing more than immediate assistance attaining public housing.
When asked why activists from the Rothschild tent city and elsewhere around the center of Israel decided to help in the construction, Rothschild tent city activist Barak Segal said “there is a real need to help them establish a permanence here. They need immediate help and immediate solutions because these people have nowhere else to go.
“These are people that the greater society has forgotten or ignored,”
Segal said, adding “we want to show that when we can come here to
provide them with assistance, just as they can come to Tel Aviv if we
need their help. These people may live in the periphery, but we’ll all
be in the periphery soon if things don’t change,” he added.
By sunset on Tuesday, two construction workers had a circular saw and a
work bench set up next to a pile of wooden planks. They said that all of
the supplies came from public donations and that they volunteered to
perform the work free of charge.
Within a half hour of setting up they managed to build the frame of a
small shack, and said they would finish another shack by morning, with
the intention of building at least another six in the coming days.
If they manage to do so, the trash-strewn tent city will include 15 shacks and more than two dozen tents.
The Jesse Cohen tent city residents said they had not informed the Holon
Municipality or the police of their plans, so it is uncertain how long
they will be able to stay until an eviction is attempted.
Yehuda Cohen, 28, who lives in a shack with his 54-year-old mother, said
that while he has a wooden structure to live in “people here have
nowhere to go. We need these buildings because we need to stay here as
long as possible. We aren’t people protesting so that the prices will
come down some. We’re protesting because we have nowhere to.”
Cohen vowed that they would stay “even if it takes another year and a
half. On Rothschild, check back in another month you won’t find a
person, or even a dog there.”
Tel Avivian Yehuda Nurial said he helped get the word out on Facebook
about the initiative, after he paid a visit to the Jesse Cohen campsite a
week and a half ago and was shocked by what he saw.
“It’s like the third world here: completely substandard conditions,
children without food or water,” Nurial said. He added that when he
first visited, there were those who were opposed to seeing him and
others participating, saying that they told him “our fight is not your
fight, this is about survival here.”
Either way, Nurial said he saw the symbolic importance of bringing
middle-class people to the campsite to lend a hand, saying “this
struggle shouldn’t only be about the middle-class, it can’t ignore the
most desperate people in society.”
Itzik Dabush, one of the first residents to set up a permanent structure
at the site a month ago, showed off his shack, which by Tuesday night,
had all the trappings of a house. In the past weeks Dabush has managed
to install a gas stove, a granite-topped sink, refrigerator, two couches
and a TV with cable. The roof still needs some work to keep the rain
out, but Dabush said he is certain the permanence of the structure he
has built will help stave off an eviction by the Holon municipality.
“See what I’ve done here? They cant come and say we threw all of this up overnight,” he said.