As tent city is cleared, Israel's midsummer night's dream is over
Smashing the protest symbol was a dramatic move, with touching as well as comic moments.
The summer of 2011 officially ended Monday. A little after 1:00 P.M., the troops - too many of them - stormed the first and last symbol of the summer's protest, the tents along Rothschild Boulevard. An hour later, the boulevard was once again a typical, peaceful Tel Aviv street. Rothschild was once again a restaurant and cafe-lined boulevard, ideal for walking the dog or children.
Smashing the protest symbol was a dramatic move, with touching as well as comic moments. The cry of the homeless people who had nowhere to go provided the sad touch, while the war on the kennel of the man from 71 Mazeh Street supplied the comic relief.
The kennel - a wooden affair with a mock-tile roof - had already been thrown onto the garbage truck when the man from Mazeh Street insisted on taking it home with him. His shouts grew louder and the struggle almost turned violent, like the pillow fight that followed. A young woman climbed into the garbage container and started throwing out pillows, cushions and mattresses the city workers had dumped into it. The workers threw them back in, while she hurled them out again.
Another amusing struggle ensued over the blue shark - symbolizing a real-estate shark - that was raised at the beginning of the revolution on a lamp post. The laborer who climbed up succeeded after considerable effort to tear it down, and the shark, too, ended up in the garbage.
How lovely those tents had been at the summer's peak, and how wretched they were at its end. How shabby was the absence of the summer-revolution leaders. Daphni Leef, Stav Shaffir, Itzik Shmuli, Regev Kontas and their friends should have been there, in the encampment that for a brief while was their home and symbol, with the last of the protesters and homeless people. How can they speak about social solidarity and fail to demonstrate solidarity at the moment of eviction?
Nothing of the social protest remains aside from a consumer rebellion against Tnuva, and only a few dozen homeless people remained out of the thousands of original tent-dwellers. Did this summer really happen or was it only a summer night's dream?
The eviction was conducted like a military operation, complete with undercover policemen, inspectors, scouts, commandos, Border Police troops, forensic photographers and contract laborers - a huge army. An hour before the operation began, undercover police detectives huddled in the bus stops or wandered aimlessly along the boulevard. Then, they raided the encampment with bulldozers, cranes, powers saws and iron containers, accompanied by a truck-convoy resembling a relief convoy entering a besieged city. An ambulance, a fire truck and even an animal ambulance were parked at the roadside, just in case.
The containers being dragged along the road, which was closed to traffic, sounded like tanks, and the din of the saws and protesters' cries echoed through the boulevard like the sounds of war.
Helpless and abandoned they stood there yesterday. Where will they go from here? The people evicted from the boulevard were the weakest of the weak, the most deprived, who had nowhere else to go. Nothing remained of the protest's great days, with the nightly meetings, the lectures, the slogans. The few who were left behind had no chance against the army of evictors. They decided not to respond with violence, as did the police, even when the large sign saying "Social Justice" that stood in the boulevard's center was thrown into the garbage container.
There was no social justice in the eviction. First came the policemen and inspectors, followed by laborers, with the African street sweepers as the rear guard.
The great heat and daylight-saving time are over, the days are shorter and the nights grow longer. An autumnal breeze cooled things down a little. I returned to the boulevard shortly after the eviction. About 20 people were sitting in a circle on the ground, around a stained Israel flag. Their clothes were also stained. They sang hoarsely, "How good it is and how pleasant, brethren sitting together." The sweetish, mushy song never sounded so bitter, so angry. See you next summer. Or maybe not.