Take back Tel Aviv!

Trouble won’t go away if we deny its existence.

March 7, 2010 05:28
3 minute read.
tel aviv 88

tel aviv 88. (photo credit: )


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Tel Aviv, rejuvenated and energized as perhaps never before in its 100 years of existence, is the trendiest magnet for Israel’s young, most vital and most upwardly mobile set.

But Tel Aviv also pulls to it others, equally attracted by its bright lights and opportunities. These are third-world economic migrants, the vast majority of them illegal.

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No one can tell for sure how many illegals reside in the city. No one has taken a census there and no one is likely to come up with any credible statistics. But an entire Tel Aviv neighborhood has essentially been ripped out of the city and commandeered. It has become an extraterritorial entity into which few veteran Israelis meander.

Anyone who indeed wanders into Neveh Sha’anan, which the erstwhile central bus terminal once dominated (and whose name ironically means “placid oasis”), would be hard put to identify the cityscape as even remotely Israeli. Squalid and foul, it’s home to an exotic collection of denizens who have found their way to the country and most of whom originally hail from the southern hemisphere.

The streets, once familiar to old-time Tel-Avivians, are nothing short of an alien urban scene. This is Tel Aviv’s seamy, dark underside and to venture there is truly dangerous.

It’s the city’s worst crime hotbed, not comparable to anything known elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Many scores of robberies and violent rapes were reported there in the past year alone. Most probably went unreported.

Last month, 67-year-old Esther Galili was brutally beaten to death by an intoxicated Eritrean illegal on Rehov Hagra, around the corner from the home she inhabited for decades. The unprovoked gruesome attack was captured by surveillance cameras. Galili was the last Israeli on her street. All others had fled in panic and even the illegals resident there fear for their lives.

Four other victims were murdered nearby in recent months. Last week the police arrested four Africans on charges of aggravated assault and drug trafficking. The populist tabloids called them “Sudanese refugees,” although bona fide refugees from the Sudan’s Darfur region constitute merely a negligible fraction of Tel Aviv’s migrant sub-Saharan population.

The police keeps warning about the proliferation of particularly violent migrant-perpetrated crime in the vicinity of the old bus station. It repeatedly urges that the matter be “thoroughly tackled” once and for all because it’s fast spiraling out of control.

Unclear, however, is the identity of the authorities who need to “tackle the problem in a thorough manner.” Is the police admitting defeat and passing the buck? Is it saying that the dimensions of the Neveh Sha’anan nastiness are too big for it?

They might well be. In fact it’s alleged that policemen prefer not to pound the beat of the neighborhood’s mean streets.

Who, then, will reclaim the heart of yesteryear’s Tel Aviv? Perhaps the first compulsory step ought to be for us, as a society, to stop avoiding the truth. Moreover, though the problem is most acute in Tel Aviv, it is no less frightening in parts of Arad and Eilat.

To ignore the morass, and let it expand and fester is the worst possible response. Trouble won’t go away if we deny its existence. Nothing will be ameliorated if we call the heterogeneous assortment of illegals in our cities “Sudanese refugees,” a euphemism which fallaciously classes them as hapless asylum-seekers deserving our sympathy. Misrepresenting reality won’t change it.

The police have announced a large-scale campaign dubbed “Safe Station,” to wrest some of the neighborhood back from the seedy crime-ridden sordidness that has taken it over. But the prospects of success aren’t encouraging. In all fairness, this shouldn’t just be the local constabulary’s exclusive mission.

The central government must be vigorously involved and help reconquer this part of Tel Aviv, which is where the unlawful influx that begins on the porous border with Egypt eventually ends up.

Tel Aviv’s no-go zones are part and parcel of Israel’s alarmingly escalating illegal migration problems and these must be boldly tackled within Israel proper, no less than on the country’s frontiers.

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