100 protest in J'lem against attacks on migrants

"I used toothpaste to keep burn clean," said Eritrean with no money for doctor.

RALLY against racism in Davidka Square, Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
RALLY against racism in Davidka Square, Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
About 100 people gathered in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest an arson attack on a building with more than 50 foreign workers a day earlier.
The arson was one of the most violent attacks against migrants in the past month and the first sign that the anti- African sentiment is expanding from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
There has been a rise in tensions between African migrants and Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv in the past month. In Jerusalem, four people were injured on Monday morning when an arsonist set fire to the first floor hallway of a building on Jaffa Road.
“This is an extremist act – to burn a man to death,” said MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor) at the protest on Tuesday.
“This is against a human being. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, it could be there is a political solution, but they’re human beings,” he told the crowd.
“We saw what was happening in south Tel Aviv – the writing was on the wall, and we knew that this was going to end with murder,” said Gadi Gvaryahu, the head of the Bright Tag anti-racism coalition.
Firefighters believe that the location of the fire on the first floor hallway was meant to kill or seriously injure the residents of the building, rather than scare them. Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Asaf Abras called the blaze “a death trap” and warned that it could have ended in tragedy.
“If we had taken them out in plastic body bags, the whole world would have been disgusted,” said Gvaryahu.
Ten of the building’s residents also attended the protest. They said they were heartened to see Israelis who did not support the attack.
“I won’t say all of Israel is not good, it was just one person who made the fire,” said 22-year-old Alula from Ethiopia. “They say the same thing about Africans, there’s one person who drinks a lot because he can’t work and lives outside and they see everyone as bad.”
Alula’s hand was injured in the fire, forcing him to quit his job as a busboy at a restaurant. He doesn’t know how he’ll work for the next month. Additionally, he lost his salary from the last month, nearly NIS 5,000 in cash, which was burned during the fire.
Residents from the first floor apartment, which was the most damaged in the fire, said their apartment was still uninhabitable and they did not know where they would sleep. At the last minute, the municipality arranged a one-night hotel stay for nine people on Monday night, but it was unclear if this would be continued despite efforts from Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu (Meretz).
Residents also had no food and no way to cook, and a man named Yakeub from Eritrea had untreated burns on his hands and no money to pay for a doctor to look at them. “I used Colgate toothpaste to keep it clean,” he said.
“The real tragedy is that no one is taking responsibility for these people,” said city councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz), who holds the public health portfolio in the municipality.
In emergency situations such as a fire, the city sends an “emergency response team” including psychologists and social workers. A municipal spokeswoman said social workers were in touch with the residents to see what they needed. Residents said municipality workers came on Monday but that no one followed up on Tuesday.
Electricity was restored to the apartment on Tuesday and the stairs had been repainted, allowing some of the residents to return.