Israel's Social Justice Activists Squat in a Second Tel Aviv Building

For the second time in a week, activists enter a city-owned building that has been abandoned for years to protest the lack of affordable housing in Israel.

Dozens of social justice activists entered a mostly abandoned building in central Tel Aviv that is owned by the city. The activists claim that the building has been standing empty and in disrepair for more than 25 years, and because the city council does not want to pay for expensive renovations, it does nothing to make it usable as apartment units or a community center.

In what was the second occupation of an empty building in protest at the lack of affordable housing, the activists climbed up to the second floor of the building using a ladder and gained access through a window so as to avoid having to break down a door to enter the building. A theater group is active on the bottom floor of the building.

Squatters - Daniel Bar-On - August 22, 2011
Daniel Bar-On

The squatters are part of socio-economic protests that began in Israel in mid-July, when activists first pitched tents in Tel Aviv's plush Rothschild Boulevard, to protest spiraling housing costs. Tent encampments have since sprung up in other cities, and the protests have also snowballed to take in the general high cost of living.

Some of the activists were wearing masks with the face of Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, printed on them. Omer Shatz, one of the activists, said, “There are many initiatives by many groups to take over more buildings, so this is just the beginning.”

“Huldai says that today we are entering public buildings that belong to the city and that tomorrow we will enter the houses of [Israeli billionaire] Nochi Dankner,” Shatz said. "We promise Huldai that we will continue to enter public buildings that he is responsible for, as long as he concerns himself with Nochi Dankner’s properties.

City council members of the ‘Ir Lekulanu’ faction, Yoav Goldring, Sharon Luzon and Rachel Gilad-Volner were present and expressed support for the squatters.

Dozens of housing protesters squatted an abandoned four-story building in Tel Aviv Monday. The building, also in central Tel Aviv, is owned by the municipality and hasn't been populated in 12 years. The following morning, the police evicted the squatters.

Over the course of a few weeks activists had been cleaning the building, which used to be a school and a dormitory, and hung banners saying "The People's House – housing, community, culture," "A liberated building" and "The city closed, the residents open."