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Entrance to storerooms
Photo: Eli Mandelbaum
Daylight is not an option
Photo: Eli Mandelbaum
Protest tent in Tel Aviv
Photo: AFP
Haredi families live in warehouses, garages
Housing distress reaches ultra-Orthodox sector too: Hundreds of families forced to move into storerooms, basements turned into illegal apartments with view of underground parking lot
Rumor has it that Israel's ultra-Orthodox residents don't suffer from a housing crisis thanks to their representatives in the Knesset, but a short tour of Jerusalem – or underground Jerusalem, to be more exact – reveals a completely different reality.

 

While in many places across the country young Israelis are taking to the streets and temporarily living in tents in protest of the soaring housing prices, in haredi concentrations in the capital entire families are forced to live in warehouses, parking garages and basements – permanently.

 

Those looking for some sun, or just daylight, must climb higher than one of the underground floors, and a real house of their own is just a distant dream.

 

It happens in luxurious haredi neighborhoods, like Har Nof and Geula, and in cheaper ones – Minhat Yitzhak, Kiryat Mattersdorf and others. The traditional sukkot and bicycles have been evacuated from the storerooms, making place for families – most of them with children.

 

Rent is almost similar to that of the real apartments upstairs, the ceiling is decorated with concrete and sewers, and the apartments have a view of an underground parking lot. Windows are not an option.

 

Never judge by appearances?

This thriving real estate market is, naturally, illegal. This is likely the reason why almost none of the hundreds (or even) thousands of tenants agreed to let us into their "homes". The last time that happened, the Jerusalem Municipality sent inspectors and issued an immediate evacuation order for all "pirate" flats.

 

Another reason for the lack of cooperation is that when you look inside, you discover that the storehouses have actually been turned into luxury apartments, and none of the tenants is in real distress. But that's just another rumor.

 

The haredim won't relocate to tents in the city square, not even on Jerusalem's cool summer nights, but their distress is real.

 

Those suffering from the housing crisis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are about the same age, but while the protests are being led by students or young people who have just completed their military service, the young haredim must put a roof over their wife and children's heads. And they want a place of their own – not a tent, and not at their parents' house.

 

 

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