Student Union takes down tent at TA Rothschild campsite

J'lem tent city also set to come down as activists vow new stage in social justice struggle beginning.

Tent City Dismantled 311 (photo credit: ben Hartman)
Tent City Dismantled 311
(photo credit: ben Hartman)
The National Union of Israeli Students began folding up its campsite on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on Sunday afternoon, the day after more than 400,000 Israelis hit the streets in a series of social justice protests across the country. Students said the decision to break down the camp was made as the protest movement enters a new phase in which the campistes are no longer relevant.
“The tents are no longer serving any purpose, they are only a symbol. What’s important is the people inside the tents or that were inside them. We don’t need the campsites to show that the protest is strong,” Yuval Badolach, from the National Union of Israeli Students said on Sunday.
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As Badolah spoke, a handful of students broke apart the metal frame of the campsite and stacked up chairs, electrical cables, and miscellaneous flotsam collected over nearly two months camping on the boulevard.
Badolach said that after the strong showing at the protests Saturday night “we are folding up the campsite with our heads held high. We are closing up here on a high note.”
He added “we can continue without the tents. People don’t need to stay in the tents anymore, people need to go back to school and to work, and the neighbors on Rothschild need some quiet and their lives back. We will wait to hear the Trajtenberg recommendations and keep on with the dialogue with the government in the meantime.”
It was unclear to what extent additional tents would be removed from the Rothschild campsite.
The air of optimism was less apparent at the Levinsky Park tent city surrounded by the slums of the old central bus station neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, where in the mid-afternoon around a half-a-dozen African refugees and homeless people lay passed out on couches and mattresses in the mid-day sun.
One resident, a homeless woman named Rachel, said “what happens at other campsites has nothing to do with us. We are people with nothing left to lose and we aren’t going anywhere.”
Shlomo Ayalo, an Ethiopian-Israeli originally from Beit Shemesh, said “the people here aren’t going anywhere because they have nowhere to go. They’ve built a place here in the back door of Israel, for everyone, people of all religions and colors who have been forgotten about. They won’t pack up.”
Activists in Jerusalem also announced that they would be taking down the tent cities in IDF Square and Gan Hasus Sunday evening after seven weeks. Gan Hasus will remain a center of social activities for the movement with weekly lectures, rallies and demonstrations as part of the ongoing struggle for social justice, organizers vowed.
"This is the beginning of the second stage of the struggle which will include a transition to activities designed for the long-term achievement of meaningful goals in the future and to cause real change in the socioeconomic order in Israel," the statement said.
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