After three months, Tel Aviv municipality removes tent cities that started it all
The tents, which spearheaded a nationwide social protest, were home to many who had nowhere else to go.
Tel Aviv municipal officials, backed up by a large number of security forces, moved in to protest encampments at key locations throughout the city Monday, aiming to clear out the the last standing tents.
The first site on the list was Levinsky Park in the south of the city, which was evacuated as day broke. The task was completed within minutes, without any of the feared confrontations between the tent dwellers and security forces.
Soon after, all roads leading to the northern part of Rothschild Boulevard were sealed off, as the evacuation began there.
At the tents, forlorn residents stood among the wreckage of what until recently had been a bustling canvas metropolis. Scores of tents have been taken down already due to a combination of fading momentum, council threats and the spate of Jewish holidays currently upon us.
Victor, a homeless man who has been living at the encampment for the past three months, was comforted by alternately gently sympathetic and angrily defiant fellow tent-dwellers.
"He's not going anywhere, we're with him; everyone is here with him," pledged one protester.
A young woman embraced the clearly distressed Victor as he sat huffing on his inhaler in the middle of the semi-dismantled area, and vowed that he would be taken care of.
"The politicians should get up and see Victor's situation, and start making their promises. We the citizens care for one another better than the politicians care for us, and that's the truth," she said.
"Victor, what do you want?" someone asked. "That we will all have a roof here," came the teary reply.
For homeless people such as Victor, the tent protests have provided a community and safe haven, as well as a respite from a lonely life of park benches and stairwells.Most of those still living in the tents had nowhere else to go.
"We've been here together from the beginning. Three months," said Ezra, a middle-aged homeless man, wearing the black kippa and tzitzit of an Orthodox Jew. "He is my friend."
He pointed to his tent. "They haven't taken it down. I'm optimistic."
But by mid-afternoon Monday, there was not one single tent left on the leafy street that had been the focal point of the social protests sweeping the country over the past three months.
Inspectors loaded put the confiscated tents and remaining supplies onto trucks; the municipality has said its owners can collect them from a designated public area in the coming days.
Several people tried to stop police removing personal items from the tents, and two were held for questioning for disorderly conduct.