Huts and tents at the Wolowelsky Park.
Huts and tents at the Wolowelsky Park. Photo by Eyal Toueg
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The Tel Aviv municipality on Tuesday distributed demolition orders for the permanent structures and huts that have gone up in what has become known as the Arlozoroff tent camp, where dozens of homeless people live. Municipal inspectors came to the site, accompanied by social workers, and explained to the people living there that they had no building permits and had to dismantle the structures soon. They were handed papers that informed them that if they did not dismantle the structures by January 12, the city would demolish them.

As winter approached, many of the inhabitants of the site, which is near the Savidor Central Railway Station and is known officially as Wolowelsky Park, built shelters out of planks.

“The Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality has permitted in principle the continued presence of the protest encampment in Wolowelsky Park…Although permission was given for the construction of tents only, we have become aware that shacks and permanent structures have been built in the park,” the letter distributed to the residents at the site said.

“This is very bad. What will we do in the rain? Everything will get wet, like what happened in the storm,“ Victor Maimon, one of the inhabitants of the tent camp told Haaretz. “Everything is full of water. We had to throw away everything people brought us. We’re very distressed now. Some have run away because everything got wet.”

Maimon said the municipality had connected them to electricity, but that it had stopped working during the storm 10 days ago and has not been turned back on. “I have a machine for treating asthma; I can’t use it. Nobody has any electricity. They just have to come and flick the switch. I don’t understand why they don’t do it,” he said.

The municipality responded that it had allowed the protest tents to remain in the park, “but it cannot permit the phenomenon that has begun recently, in which people are building permanent structures and shacks on public property. It is important to note that the city follows up the people living in the encampment and provides them with social services and allows those who want to, to sleep in one of the city’s homeless shelters, and also tries to help them realize their rights vis-a-vis the National Insurance Institute and the Housing Ministry.” The city said it also tries to help the park dwellers receive assistance from the city from which they came, noting that most of them are not from Tel Aviv. “It is important to note that the housing problem and the high cost of living in Israel is a true and severe national problem and the number of people hurt by the situation is much greater than the number living in the tent camp,” the city said.