Nordau’s tent city: A sane alternative to Rothschild

Nordau tent city has proven that setting up a campsite in the middle of town doesn’t have to equal a descent into chaos.

Nordau tent city chilled_311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Nordau tent city chilled_311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Someone set up a guillotine at the end of Rothschild boulevard on Wednesday night. It’s unclear who exactly, but the city of Tel Aviv was quick to issue an eviction notice, and by Thursday morning, the performance art execution device was nowhere to be seen. Later on Thursday, a visit to Rotshchild by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) was cut short when he was swarmed by a crowd of angry, largely middle-aged men who shouted at him until he left, surrounded by at least eight bodyguards. Earlier in the day, at the same spot, a homeless man head-butted a young man trying to prevent him from attacking a woman, a journalist from Walla reported.
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Just another day at Israel’s largest tent city, which has for weeks multiplied and festered in the sun, an anarchic law enforcement blind spot in the middle of the city that seems destined for a Cholera outbreak. The free-for-all also presents an argument for a visible public police presence, especially following the arrest this week of a 56-year-old homeless man accused of sexually assaulting several women while they slept alone in their tents.
Further north however, the tent city on Nordau boulevard has continued to grow, and perhaps owing to its status as an auxiliary campsite, and its far lower number of campers, has proven that setting up a tent city in the middle of town doesn’t have to equal a descent into chaos. If anything, it presents a nice, breezy place to come and show your support for the social justice movement, after Pilates class or picking up the kids from day care.
On Thursday night on Nordau, a group of several dozen residents of the well-heeled northern Tel Aviv neighborhood, including a large number of children, listened to a series of lectures, including one given by Reut institute founder Gidi Grinstein. Next to the campsite’s relatively pristine kitchen, a man prepared hand-made pizzas next to two portable stone ovens, as two young children watched in awe. The facilities appear light years closer to receiving a health department seal of approval than the kitchen at Rothschild, where dishes are washed in putrid, brown dishwasher standing in the blazing sun for hours.
“This is the Savyon of the tent cities”, said Rabbi Yehoshua Engleman, in reference to the posh suburb in central Israel, one of the country’s richest districts.
Engelman, whose synagogue “Yakar” is located in the neighborhood, had set up his own orange tent earlier in the week. He said the scene on Nordau was far less crowded and out of control than Rothschild, but added that both present an opportunity to take part in social betterment.
When asked why he came to Nordau‘s tent city, he said “they opened it here and I asked myself in the next world, what will I say I have done?”
Engelman’s approach to the social justice revolt appeared to match the environment of Nordau: people finding a level and area of protest that is comfortable for them and their surroundings, with an environment of controlled assembly.
For Shachar Fleischman, 38, eating pizza with his two young sons on Thursday night, the reasons for coming to Nordau instead of Rothschild are quite simple indeed.
“Rothschild has already made their statement there, and we should bring it here.”
“Also, it’s less crowded, and nicer for kids here,” he added.