Squatters take over TA building, until police arrive

Protesters take over two long-abandoned floors of property, dubbing it "the People's House," but police work to seal off building.

August 26, 2011 19:49
2 minute read.
Activists take over empty floors of TA building

Peoples house Bialik 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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For the second time in less than a week, activists took over an abandoned building in Tel Aviv on Friday, protesting what they say is the municipality's failure to utilize such properties.

The building in question was at 28 Bialik a few doors down from the old Tel Aviv City Hall and the former home of poet Nahman Bialik. Like in last week's one-day takeover of a 3,000 sq. meter building on Dov Hoz Street, activists referred to the building as "The People's House". Two of the building's three floor's remain abandoned, while the third floor houses an office and the back half of the building is currently being used by Tel Aviv's "Yiddishspeil" Yiddish theater.

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According to a pamphlet released by the group, "for the past 25 years two floors of this building have stood empty and neglected. The City Hall, which does not want to carry out the expensive renovations, is not doing anything in order make it available for residential or communal use."

Donning masks of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, they climbed into the building's second floor window on Friday afternoon by way of a ladder and began sweeping the floors and taking in their new environments. The building was not nearly as accessible as the complex on Dov Hoz, and required a rather nimble ascent by way of ladder and tree in order to enter, limiting the number of people who passed the time on the abandoned floors. Inside the building, dust swirled in the air and photos from a decades-old magazine adorned a wall.

Hadar Shemesh, 25, of Tel Aviv said that "it’s a municipality building and two of its floors have not been used for 25 years because the city prefers to just wait until a private buyer with a ton of money comes along to buy it. It’s a historic building so whoever buys it would have to invest a great deal in renovating it.

Shemesh said that her group had spoken to an architect who said that rental fees within the first year could recoup the costs of the renovation.

"The city says that they are preserving these buildings for the next generation, but there is a very serious housing issue here, and we won't wait for the next generation."

She added that a number of people were planning on staying in the building overnight and were bringing supplies for the long haul.

Nonetheless, shortly thereafter police arrived and began work to seal off the building, leaving the future of "the People's House" on Bialik in doubt.

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