As our final tour on the trip we explored South Tel Aviv. Our guide said that the sentiment of the Tel Aviv residents was that South Tel Aviv was not apart of Tel Aviv given its vastly different ethnic makeup up and living conditions. Interestingly enough, well the people of Tel Aviv believe South Tel Aviv to be a different work the Jerusalamites view Tel Aviv to be a completely different land as well; perhaps Israel as a whole is disconnected, especially in terms of ethnicities and the aesthetics of the cities.
One of the biggest differences between Tel Aviv and South Tel Aviv is the explosion of immigrants and asylum seekers, which largely come from Sudan and Eritrea. In the early 2000’s between 300,000 and 500,000 immigrants living in Tel Aviv. Israel as a whole holds 600,000 displaced persons, denoting to the dense immigrant population in South Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, with such a densely populated area of immigrants living conditions and institutions become grossly under-resourced, resulting in many health issues, educational disadvantages and inaccessibility to the already few available services. For example, when walking by a nursery our tour guide informed but that it housed 30 infants, but was only staffed with one women. Consequently, she began by feeding the babies breakfast, however, by the time she was finished she’d have to start feeding them lunch, and therefore left no time for mental stimulation. This one illustration of the iSudanese and Eritrean population demonstrates how these children start life off at a disadvantage before they even reach elementary school.
To further compound the issues these immigrants face they are met with more resistance because of their immigrant status. Immigrants, legally in Israel, are not permitted to work. Soon after this law was passed the obvious implications came to light; if the immigrants are not allowed to work they will die. This issue of how to handle problems of immigration divided Israeli right and left wings. The right positioned that it shouldn’t be the problem of the Israeli people to provide a solution and they should care for themselves somehow or go home. The left, on the other hand, believes that given the volatile situations these immigrants face back home they should accommodating. As a result, a new law was passed stating that although legally immigrants are not allowed to work it can not be enforced. Thus, begins the contradictory and backwards politics of immigration, in addition to the usage of these immigrants life’s as political platforms.
After it become clear that immigration to Israel was causing overpopulation within certain areas the government decided that imprisonment in detention camps would be the easiest way to resolve the ever growing issue. This policy applies to not only the adults but children as well. As relatively new policy, those who have been held at the detention camps have yet to be released from their 3 year sentence, and as such the affects of this policy remain unclear. I can only imagine that this harsh action will create tension and conflict between the immigrants and the Israeli people. As the tour guide hinted at, “the Israeli people are inflicting their anger of the effects of immigration at the immigrants, not the leaders of the country which are forcing its people to flee or be killed.” Given that this is the unnoticed mentality of the Israeli people I would assume that the immigrants feel similarly and will grow to detest the Israeli people for their misguided anger. Again it can’t be ignored that there seems to be a repetitive theme of Israeli’s inflicting harsh conditions on the immigrants which they too were once subjected to.
In contrast there are some efforts to accommodate the Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants. One small but noticable step was the community library. The nonprofit library featured numerous subjects, languages and reading levels to which the immigrants living the community could check out. This display of multicultural friendliness, although a small act, demonstrates that society is becoming more receptive of assisting the immigrants on their journey to individual and familial improvements. In addition the public clinic we saw specifically aims to make health care accessible to the immigrant population by strategically locating the office in an accessible area and providing subsided care.
There is of course much work to be done in terms of the legal policies and the future of the sentiments of the immigrants on their treatment in Israel is yet to be determined if public policy shifts to favor of the immigrants perhaps there is a possibility for peaceful coexistence. Coexistence is not merely a battle for the Arabs of Israel and that should not be overlooked.