‘It’s not a picnic, but it’s our reality’

Six months have passed since the first families arrived in Sacher Park, predating the tents on Rothschild by a few weeks.

Tent City 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Tent City 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Six months have passed since the first families arrived in Sacher Park, predating the tents on Rothschild by a few weeks.
In the past half-year, as the families dealt with the onslaught of Jerusalem’s bone-chilling winter, they have traded their flimsy tents for wooden shacks wrapped in felt, a small attempt at insulation against the winter winds.
For the first two months, they stole electricity from a nearby street lamp. But after municipality officials realized they were stealing electricity, the city shut down the lights for the entire section of the park, plunging the families into darkness. Now, they stumble around their collection of sheds at night with flashlights.
When it rains, they gather around a tarp draped over a gas stove. When it doesn’t rain, they make bonfires outside to stay warm.
Yaffit Dahan has the largest family in Sacher Park. Her children are 19, 14, nine, three, and two years old. This past fall, an ebullient Dahan returned to her tent after watching her oldest son draft into the army at Bakum. She worried about him coming from basic training back to the family’s tent, but she was proud of him nonetheless. But Dahan’s son wanted to serve in the army in a capacity that would let him come back to the tents every night.
He was worried about his family, and wanted to be there to protect them, Dahan explained. When the army tried to send him to a farther base that wouldn’t let him return each night, Dahan’s son had trouble dealing with the mental stress and tried to commit suicide. He recovered, but was released from the army.
It was the second time that one of the teenagers from the tent encampment has attempted suicide since families started living there. A 15-year-old girl also tried to kill herself earlier this year. There are 22 children ranging from a year to 19 years old living in the tent encampment.
“We’re in a public park, we deal with everything: pedophiles, total darkness, rats, thefts,” said Dahan. She slammed the mayor for spending millions of shekels on extensions for Teddy Stadium and landscaping at rotaries while she lived in a one-room shack with her children.
The tent encampment also celebrated a birth: five days ago, one of the residents gave birth to a baby girl. Due to the cold, the baby was at her grandparent’s house.
“She’s just a little thing, she’s smaller than some of the rats we have here,” said Dahan.
One tent resident invited the government to come see their conditions.
“I want them to come see us. I want the Housing Ministry to come and see how we live and see if they could live through one day like us,” said tent resident Orgad Kedem, a single mother of a seven-year-old son. “It’s not a picnic for us, but it’s our reality,” she said.