Holon demonstrators seek compromise over evacuation

Jesse Cohen neighborhood committee chair writes letter to municipality warns events could "spin out of control" if shacks destroyed.

Holon Jesse Cohen burning couch_311 (photo credit: ben hartman)
Holon Jesse Cohen burning couch_311
(photo credit: ben hartman)
Protesters at the tent city in Holon’s impoverished Jesse Cohen neighborhood are trying to reach a compromise with the local municipality under which they will voluntarily evacuate the wooden structures they have built once the housing protest comes to an end.
The move has been taken in order to avoid violent clashes with police who would be sent to secure a demolition of the structures.
In a letter sent to the Holon Municipality and the Tel Aviv district police on Monday, Jesse Cohen neighborhood committee chair Nissan Zechariya wrote “the protesters’ lack of means forced them to build shacks from broken doors and pieces of wood that they found.”
“An attempt to destroy the shacks will be seen by them as an attempt to squash the protest, which could lead to incidents spinning out of control.
This is something neither we nor the law enforcement authorities want.”
Zechariya told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the idea to write the letter came from police, who he said told him they have no intention to forcefully remove the structures, because they fear it could lead to a violent escalation.
Zechariya said that he believes that as long as the few dozen protesters remain in the tent city he and other leaders can maintain control of a potentially volatile situation.
“As long as [the protesters] are sitting in the tent city, it’s under control. But if these people are dispersed, they’ll go all over the city and it won’t be controllable.”
He said that disgruntled evacuees “could also carry out ‘price tag’ actions” in a reference to actions taken by some West Bank settlers following demolitions of illegal structures over the Green Line.
“The municipality sees this as a takeover of land, but these people are only doing it as part of a protest. Once the protest is over they’ll leave on their own,” Zechariya said, adding that “the police are with us on this.”
The tent city in Jesse Cohen includes a few dozen tents and about a half a dozen slapdash wooden shacks that have been thrown up to house families that have lost their apartments in recent months. While they are not permanent structures, some do have refrigerators, TVs, steel doors, and other basic trappings of a home.
Protesters at Jesse Cohen say the structures were built because unlike on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, the tent city houses entire families, who say they are incapable of piling into tents. They also say that they are only looking for public housing and are not interested in other grievances included in the protest movement.
Last Wednesday, residents of the tent city burned tires and a couch in the middle of a major thoroughfare next to the campsite, shortly after a pair of municipal clerks left the site.
The residents vowed to clash with police if an attempt is made to evacuate them by force.
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