Residents of south Tel Aviv are working to prevent the opening of a kindergarten for the children of migrant workers and refugees in the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood. The move comes after attempts to prevent apartments from being rented to African refugees, as reported by Ynet last week, and brings tension in the southern parts of the city to boiling point.
The municipality decided to open a new kindergarten due to the persistent rise in the numbers of children among these populations, especially in the area around the New Central Bus Station. While the authorities are investigating the possibility of building new premises in this area, a process that could take up to two years, a temporary solution is slated for Kiryat Shalom – an area populated by veteran Israeli families.
The municipality clarified that Israelis are also welcome to sign up their children in the new kindergarten.
During a tense meeting at the municipality offices on Wednesday, residents expressed a clear demand: The planned kindergarten must be cancelled.
There demand was not met, however, and the residents, including members of parent committees in the area's elementary schools, threatened to hold a demonstration at the kindergarten's gate and physically prevent the children from entering.
'Don't want these kids in my neighborhood' (Photo: Yaron Brener)
City council member Binyamin Babayoff (Shas) who led the campaign against renting apartments to migrant workers, also joined the new campaign against the kindergarten.
"The parents' struggle shows that this is not racism of haredim or the religious population, but real distress which secular people also suffer," he said. "We will continue to shout and oppose until a real solution is found to the issue."
'Pulling us down'
The head of the action committee against the kindergarten, local resident Tzilla Yitzhak, explained their position.
"We are a deprived population, and we don't have our own budget or resources," she said. "We are trying to lift our heads – and now they'll open a kindergarten for an even weaker population? We don't want to become another central bus station where foreign workers wander about everywhere."
"As soon as they open a kindergarten for 35 kids, the families will want to come and live near it, then there'll be foreign workers everywhere," she continued. "These people are actually wretched, they don't have work permits, they bring crime and a bad economic situation to the place they come to, which is already suffering from welfare and economic problems."
Suzy Cohen, also a resident of the neighborhood, promises they'll fight the kindergarten with all their strength. She adds that as long as there are insufficient kindergartens in Kiryat Shalom for the local children, it is not logical to bring in the children of migrant workers.
Cohen also rejects the idea that Israeli children should go to the same kindergarten as these migrant children – "and I don't care if they call me racist," she says. "Our park is full of Sudanese who are looking for a fight, to kill – they've got murderous eyes. They should take them to the north of the city, or to some other city."
The municipality responded: "We are concerned with the welfare of all, and do everything we can to cope with the issue of children of migrant workers and refugees and integrate them into the education system. Thus various options are raised to find a solution for these children while taking residents' needs into account.
"It must be noted that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is the first public authority to take responsibility for the refugee and migrant worker population, and almost the only one who for a decade has been caring for their welfare and rights, including the integration of some 800 kindergarten-age children in municipal education."
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich also contributed to this report.