The Whole Country Is Eilat

There are no two ways about it: These migrants come here at the expense of the lower classes, while business owners and members of the middle and upper classes benefit.

B. was somewhat surprised when he came home Tuesday night and found two exhausted people lying on his doorstep. They told him they had walked through the Sinai desert for four days and then crossed the border into Eilat. B. gave them water and called the police. But the police informed him that they don't deal with migrants; that is the army's job.

The next morning, a military jeep indeed arrived to collect them. It turned out that a total of 96 migrants had entered Eilat that night. All were taken to the Israel Prison Service's Kissufim facility in the Negev the next day.

Israel is a rather strange country. On one hand, security is its chief concern: It is constantly rehearsing for the possibility of another war and preparing itself to cope with the threats around it. It has separation fences and security fences all over, and the security checks at Ben-Gurion Airport are the most meticulous in the world. It is a country whose prime minister is "Mr. Terror." Just this week, he set up a new security agency - the National Cybernetic Task Force - whose purpose is to thwart Internet attacks.

Yet on the other hand, this same country has a border with Egypt that is wide open. From there, one can enter Israel without difficulty. There is no fence and no security check, even if you are a devout Muslin from Eritrea or Sudan. What would have happened had one of those 96 migrants been an agent of a terrorist organization?

Residents of Eilat have already given up. At present, there are 6,000 migrants from Africa there, meaning they constitute 12 percent of the city's population. But the truth is that Tel Aviv, too, has been left in the lurch - or at least, the south of the city has.

I recently toured the area that once housed Tel Aviv's central bus station. The face of the neighborhood has changed completely: It has become "little Sudan." It is populated by migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad and Ivory Coast.

In Neveh Sha'anan Street, which was once the place to buy shoes, I counted eight money changers who convert the shekels the workers earn into dollars to send to their families in Africa. Restaurants and clubs have been set up in interior courtyards - without licenses, of course. Living conditions in the neighborhood are frightful. Hovels have been turned into apartments where several migrants crowd into one room with a tiny kitchenette in the corner.

Even the famous building at 1 Finn St., once a center of the drug trade, has become a "hostel" for African migrants. The entire area looks like one big slum.

During the day, it is still possible to walk there without fear. But when night falls, those Israelis who still remain in the neighborhood (a few elderly folk ) don't dare to go out because of the violence and the thefts. One elderly man told me how his new neighbors have taken over most of the apartments in the block where he lives and are now pressuring him to leave. "Where can I go?" he cried.

Every month, some 1,000 migrants enter Israel and are caught by the army, which then sets them free. Another 500 a month enter but are not caught. Altogether, that comes to 18,000 a year.

It is easy to be nice and claim that these people are refugees. But the truth is that 98 percent of the time, they are young migrant workers who have come here to improve their economic situation.

The problem is that when they work, they replace blue-collar Israeli workers, who either lose their jobs or suffer a pay cut. There are no two ways about it: These migrants come here at the expense of the lower classes, while business owners and members of the middle and upper classes benefit.

Therefore, the solution is to prevent these migrants from getting work. A large camp must be built in the Negev where they can be kept for a prolonged period.

Of course, they must be properly fed and given reasonable living conditions, but they must not be allowed to leave the camp and go to work.

Once that happens, they will take care of informing their friends in Sudan and Eritrea that it is not worthwhile to come here, because it's not possible to work and earn money. This is the only humane way to stop the flow of migrants to Israel. This is also the method that is now being employed by European countries.

Once this happens, B. will no longer find migrants on his doorstep, because coming here will no longer be worthwhile.

There's no need to shoot at them or humiliate them. It's enough to employ simple economics.