About 200 people assembled at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on Sunday night to protest poor conditions for the elderly and foreign workers in the city’s southern neighborhoods.
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The protest came after the deaths of five babies in substandard, unofficial day-care centers for migrant workers, over a two-month period in February and March.
Protesters called for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to “stop abandoning children, black or white” and to “dismantle the ghettos” of south Tel Aviv.
Shula Keshet, a resident of the area’s Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood and director of the social action organization Ahoti for Women in Israel, blamed the Tel Aviv municipality and the government for the situation. “We must not remain silent in the face of the deaths of children. They deserve to live with dignity,” she said.
“The ghetto conditions are killing everyone, first of all the children. On Holocaust Remembrance Day we saw the wounds of the Jews who were in the ghettos and the cost of this. In south Tel Aviv, people are also dying and this must be stopped,” Keshet added.
Niviat Hagos, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, told the rally, “An Eritrean father cares for his children like any other father. We protect our children and want to give them all the love but we are living in economic and psychological distress that make our lives intolerable. We are alone in the face of the harsh policies,” she said, citing the frequent jailing of members of the Eritrean community.
The two most recent deaths of the babies in unofficial day-care centers, dubbed “baby warehouses” in the media because of the overcrowded and poor conditions, occurred within less than 48 hours of each other. They join another 10 cases over the past two years.
A total of 70 such day-care centers are operating in south Tel Aviv.
A government proposal was expedited following the most recent deaths and was sent to government ministers at the beginning of the month. It calls for 14 million shekels ($3.6 million) a year to be transferred to the Tel Aviv municipality to provide for proper day-care frameworks for children from birth to age 3
The plan calls for the city to fund 30 percent of the cost of the centers each year by providing and maintaining the physical premises, and for philanthropic sources to provide another 10 million shekels to renovate the buildings and equipment.
The plan, which was formulated by the Prime Minister’s Office, various ministries and the Tel Aviv municipality, is described as an “emergency solution to increase services and care for babies and toddlers of foreigners without status” living in Tel Aviv.