Tent City Evacuations on Hold, Pending Court Ruling

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai says he doesn't oppose protest, only wants the size of Tel Aviv's tent cities reduced.

The Tel Aviv District Court issued a temporary injunction on Thursday barring the evacuation of tent encampments across the city. The court ruling came only hours after municipal inspectors began placing evacuation notices on tents on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. The injunction will be in force until 9 A.M. Friday, when activists and city officials are scheduled to attempt to settle the issue in court.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that the city was not against the protest, but was interested in a drastic reduction in the size of Tel Aviv's tent cities. "It's about time that they [the protest leaders] understand that this thing has exhausted itself, and I am a protest supporter ... I'm a social-democrat," Huldai said, adding that the activists were not evicted. Instead it was proposed that they reorganize as discussion groups in various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, about 100 protesters demonstrated in front of the entrance to Tel Aviv city hall in response to the municipality's eviction orders. Some of the protesters threw eggs and flowers at the main entrance to the building. Indictments were filed on Thursday against eight of the 40 people arrested at the demonstration. Among those charged was Yigal Rambam, one of the leaders of the protest movement. He called his arrest "political," and vowed to carry on the fight "until the end." Police say those arrested had attacked police officers and threw stones and eggs.

The judge handling the case, Shamai Becker, refused to impose the terms the police had sought as a condition of the detainees' release. "There is no need to elaborate on freedom of expression and the right to assemble and demonstrate as a fundamental right in Israel," he said. The judge rejected a police request that each defendant post a NIS 5,000 personal bond, along with a third-party guarantee. The sum was excessive, the judge said, adding that drug dealers and defendants accused of violent crimes who are released to house arrest are not required to post such amounts.

However, Becker did require seven of the defendants to post a NIS 500 personal bond as well as a NIS 3,000 third-party guarantee.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also met with protesters in the city, on Thursday. He told them he was working to free up NIS 120 million in frozen funding for public housing to address the needs of the homeless. He also promised other assistance to needy families.