The migrant community in Tel Aviv responded with mixed emotions to a rally held Tuesday in the city, which called for their expulsion from the country.
"It's no longer safe to walk around Tel Aviv," Oscar, a Congolese citizen who has been residing in Israel for 16 years, told Ynet.
But Sigi, from Eritrea, sees a silver lining. "Maybe now the government will do something for the refugees," she says.
Meanwhile Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen said he was concerned about crime among the migrant community. "The infiltrators in Eilat, Tel Aviv, Arad, and recently in Ashdod and Bnei Brak, are concentrated, and aside from demographic concerns arising from their growing numbers the violence, theft, and drug violations worry me, as well as serious crimes like murder and rape," he told a Jerusalem conference Wednesday.
Oscar, who lives near Tel Aviv's central bus station, says he rush to pick his daughter up from school after learning of the rally, following the example of a number of other parents. "We were afraid," he said.
The protest Tuesday saw hundreds from the city's southern neighborhoods gather to decry the government's handling of the migrant population. "Bibi go home," the protestors yelled, some of them resorting to violent behavior towards protestors supporting the opposite side.
'It's not racism, it's survival' (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Tensions between residents of the city have been rising over recent weeks, with violence directed at foreign residents. In addition to the rally, three African girls were attacked in Hatikva neighborhood and in Ashdod an apartment in which five Sudanese citizens were residing was torched.
"It's no longer safe to walk around Tel Aviv, certainly after what happened in Ashdod and what happened to the girls here," Oscar says. "It's the first time I've ever seen anything like this. Where I live, most of the population comes from the former Soviet Union and they believe Africans are taking their jobs."
Oscar says he is truly afraid. "I have many Israeli friends and they feel uncomfortable. The government must do something," he says, adding that the migrant population is generally well-behaved. "Even the police say there is less crime in the foreigners' areas," he says.
Sigi, an Eritrean migrant who arrived in Israel a few years ago, tries to remain optimistic. "It's against us and it's scary, it's not good for our community," she said. "On the other hand it's good for us, because I heard someone say after the rally that maybe now the government will do something for the refugees."
Migrants will get the chance to respond in their own fashion on Friday, when a rally is scheduled to be held in their support. Demonstrators will gather to protest a plan to erect a detention facility for infiltrators in the south, and organizers expect thousands.