After Residents Protest, Tel Aviv Promises to Keep Drug Addicts, Prostitutes Off the Streets

Municipal officials said they would work toward closing the methadone distribution center on Harakevet Street, and promised to work toward closing brothels in Neveh Sha’anan

Residents protest against what they call Tel Aviv Municipal's inability to handle homeless people and drug dealing in south Tel Aviv, December 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

After a demonstration by residents of south Tel Aviv over the neglect of their neighborhood and the large number of drug users there, senior municipal officials said they would take a series of steps to improve the situation by May.

In a meeting with residents on Thursday, municipal officials said they would work toward closing the methadone distribution center on Harakevet Street, and close Shvil Akko Street, where drug dealing is prevalent. They also said they would increase security in schools in the Neveh Sha’anan area, near the old central bus station. The parties agreed to meet weekly to ensure that the promised changes would take place.

Municipality deputy CEO Rubi Zluf and the head of the city’s homeless services department, Yoav Ben-Artzi, pledged that the city would also add more street lights and pressure police into more aggressive action against drug dealers. They also promised to work toward closing brothels in Neveh Sha’anan. They said they would launch a pilot program to install and help fund secure doors to apartment buildings that open only with a code and an intercom on streets where the homeless enter yards and stairwells.

There are three methadone distribution centers in Tel Aviv, two of which are in Neveh Sha’anan. Zluf said city officials would meet with Health Ministry officials in January and demand closure of the center on Harakevet Street, around which addicts congregate to wait their turn to receive the methadone. Many of the addicts are not Tel Aviv residents. The same is true at the other distribution center near the neighborhood, on Hamasger Street. Zluf said they would ask the Health Ministry to study the possibility of limiting service at Hamasger Street to Tel Aviv residents.

Zluf said at the meeting with the residents that the city had beefed up its homeless services unit. Over the past few weeks senior city officials have gone to Neveh Sha’anan a few times a week to see for themselves the efforts the unit is making to help the homeless. Mayor Ron Huldai toured the area last week at night.

City councilwoman Shula Keshet, who is also chairwoman of the Neveh Sha’anan residents association, accused the city of acting now because of a critical report by the municipal ombudsman and the residents’ protest.

“The burden of proof is on the municipality. I would hope that the intention is real and the funding will be invested in the right places, she said. Another leader of the protest, Neveh Sha’anan resident Anat Peretz, said residents had protested the Harakevet Street methadone center seven years ago, and “every year it’s the same promises and nothing is done.”

The Tel Aviv municipality responded that it would “continue to work and invest many resources and efforts to improve the quality of life for the residents of south Tel Aviv.” Municipal leaders were working in various ways “including weekly meetings with representatives of the residents, like the recent one, to bring about change as soon as possible.”