Uncertainty reigned at an abandoned dormitory in Jerusalem on Monday night as
the clock ticked closer to the police-mandated eviction of 35 homeless families
and activists who broke into the building last week as part of the ongoing
The building, on Stern Street in the Kiryat Yovel
neighborhood, is an old student dormitory for the Ein Kerem campus of Hebrew
University that has been abandoned for the past five years. The university filed
a complaint with the police on Sunday, and it gave the squatters 48 hours to
vacate the premises, a period that expires early on Tuesday morning.
families, most of whom spent the summer living in neighborhood tent cities
around Jerusalem – demanding public housing and a roof over their heads – said
they would refuse to leave the building until they are provided with housing
solutions. Some inhabitants said they would resort to violence, including
possibly the use of gas canisters, physical violence or small explosives, in
order to stay in the building.
“They were told they have until Tuesday to
leave voluntarily, and if they do not leave voluntarily, they will be evicted,”
said Jerusalem police deputy spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi on Monday
“The police won’t allow any disruption of the peace or any
violence against officers.”
Inside the house on Monday, children played
hide-andseek in the entryway as inhabitants greeted supporters who brought
clothes and other necessities. There are more than 100 people living in the
apartment building, including five pregnant women, five babies, and dozens of
“We’re worried, we have nowhere to go, my children won’t have a
roof over their heads [if they evict us],” said Batya Mizrahi, who was staying in the building
with her mother and two children, aged three years and two and a half
Opinions were divided over whether or not to use violence in
order to stay in the building.
“When you sit and talk, it’s just like
filling out more paperwork; things only start moving when you slam your fist on
the table,” said Pnina Dadon, who has been trying to get public housing for the
past 10 years and is living in a temporary apartment nearby.
“We need to
fight to get something done; if we don’t fight, we won’t get
Miri Ben-Simon, who is squatting in the building with her
husband, said, “I hope they’ll come to negotiate with us so they won’t evict us.
There are a few people [who are ready to be violent], but we really hope it
won’t come to that.”
Chaim Cohen, one of the leaders of the families in
the Stern Street building, said that with the police’s arrival on Tuesday
morning they would evacuate the children, but that the rest of the families and
activists joining them would sit on the floor and refuse to budge. If the police
tried to forcibly evict them, there are about 10 people ready to use violence,
“People are in really hard situations; they are ready to go to
places that are very extreme,” said Michael, an activist from the Sheikh Jarrah
Solidarity Movement who was supporting and advising the families.
said the families did not want to damage the property and did not know the
building belonged to the university when they broke in last week.
in favor of the students,” he said, adding that, like the tent cities, the
families also want more housing for young couples, released soldiers, students
and families struggling to make ends meet.
“This building is a scream for
help for the entire country and all the poor people,” he said.
University spokeswoman Orit Sulitzeanu said on Sunday the building is waiting to
be renovated and is currently unsafe for inhabitants, though it will be used for
students at Ein Kerem in the near future. She said she hoped the
situation would be resolved “quickly and in good spirits.”
for the public housing protest accused Israel of focusing on the end of the
students’ struggle, rather than the real tent dwellers. The students in Tel Aviv
and Jerusalem chose to fold up the majority of their tents on Sunday and return
to their homes and jobs while they move onto the next phase of
“The tents in City Park, Independence Park, and Sacher
Park are tents with no other choice,” said Idan Pinak, a spokesman for the
public housing protest in Jerusalem.
“They have nowhere else to
Cohen said if, in the end, the 35 families are evicted from the
building on Stern Street, they will build another tent encampment together
somewhere in the vicinity, because they have no other choice.