Mayor of Kiryat Shmona Cancels Event in Support of Asylum Seekers

The reason, he said, is his objection to taking in “needy communities” and desire to prevent “unnecessary controversies” in the northern town

Children of asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, wear costumes during Purim in Tel Aviv on February 27, 2018.
Ariel Schalit/AP

The Kiryat Shmona municipality canceled an event Thursday that was intended to support asylum seekers and protest Israel's plan to deport them.

The town’s mayor, Rabbi Nissim Malka, said he canceled the event, which had been slated to take place in a municipality-backed local pub on Sunday of this week, because he objects to taking in “needy communities” and wants to prevent “unnecessary controversies.”

Municipal officials and pub owners said they would organize another event that would voice all the opinions in the community.

The event was to be held at the Cashew Pub, a cooperative set up by students and residents with the municipality’s support. Recently it hosted several events for asylum seekers. Sunday’s event, which was described in ads as “an evening to protest the deportation,” was scheduled to include stand-up comedy, stalls and lectures on the campaign against the deportation.

Malka wrote on Facebook that he would set up a panel to decide “what can be done at the community pub to prevent the place from turning into a home for those interested in creating unnecessary controversies and dividing our town.”

Malka wrote that he met with his deputy, the Tel Hai College CEO, the chairman of the students’ union and others to explain his objection to “absorbing needy communities.”

Kiryat Shmona will not become “a shelter to any community,” he wrote. “Our welfare budget is earmarked solely for this town’s needy communities. We won’t allow the taking on of another burden.” Malka said a past attempt to take in asylum seekers had failed.

Dr. Eilat Shavit of Tel Hai College told Haaretz the event had been conditioned on the agreement of all the partners running the pub. “I thought it proper to hold an event with a community orientation in a community pub,” she said. “I believe that as academics who are critical and involved we should give a voice to those who object as well.”

Shavit is a member of a team of students, lecturers and residents who called on the government to act against the deportation and on the region’s residents to help the asylum seekers.

“I’m not saying we must preserve a sacred balance, I am in favor of critical dialogue and criticizing ourselves as well. If my view isn’t criticized at one event after another, I’m doing something wrong,” she said.

The municipality said, “In view of the discourse on the social networks, the pub’s partners and the mayor decided to reexamine the event and after a productive discussion it was decided to cancel it and set up a committee on holding an event that will give voice to the variety of opinions on this sensitive issue.”