Photo: Assaf Kamar
Tel Aviv's overlooked neighborhood of Hasan Arfa.
Photo: Assaf Kamar

Drugs and prostitution: Inside Tel Aviv's dark underbelly of crime and abuse

Most people do not even know the name of the neighborhood, named Hasan Arfa, that is the center for prostitution, drugs, and gambling a mere five minutes from the heart of Tel Aviv.

Most people living in Tel Aviv do not know the name of the area that is a mere five minute walk away from Rothschild Boulevard - an area which will soon undergo construction and be replaced with luxurious high-rises, and is currently home to prostitutes, makeshift casinos, and undocumented immigrants.



The Hassan Arfa neighborhood, named after an Arab sheikh who ruled the area in the beginning of the 20th century, has become a center for poverty and neglect. When the British took control of Israel they took over the villa that existed in the area and the only remnants of the once developed area are the eucalyptus trees that stand among the stolen bikes that are strewn in the streets of the now impoverished area.


The now impoverished Hasan Arfa neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)
The now impoverished Hasan Arfa neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)


The neighborhood's dirt and grime clearly contrasts the shiny modern skyline with its shiny glass towers. Located between central roads Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Sadeh in Tel Aviv, the neighborhood occupied by druggies and prostitutes raises serious questions about the city's municipality operations.


The neighborhood is almost completely isolated – everyday passerby rarely walk into the neighborhood except for when they must frequent a local business – mainly car garages.


The Hasan Arfa neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)
The Hasan Arfa neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)


The area that surrounds the neighborhood is filled with people, food stands and buses but most never pass beyond the border of the impoverished area and take the extra few steps that would lead them into an atmosphere of complete isolation and fear.


Very few normative people live in the area – and most people would probably want to avoid those that do live there.

The municipalities green bicycles, part of a city-wide bike renting system, can be seen lying around the sides of the streets, highlighting the feeling that police and law enforcement agencies do not have a presence there.


The sparse population that lives there is mostly comprised of drug addicts and African refugees. According to the neighborhood's residents, Israeli criminals have recently migrated into the area and use it as a location for parties that include prostitutes and makeshift casinos.


Rachel, a resident of the neighborhood, lives in a refurbished chicken coop and is trying to survive life in her brutal surroundings. "This is an extremely dangerous area," she says. "It is very hard to live here. I was forcefully attacked several times and my arm was broken. There is no point in calling the police. What will they do?"


Rachel was attacked several times in the neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)
Rachel was attacked several times in the neighborhood. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)


Another resident of the neighborhood, Omar, lives in a garage turned apartment. Omar is a refugee from Eritrea who arrived in Israel after being held hostage in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula by Bedouins. He was harassed and held for ransom as the Bedouins attempted to contact his family in Eritrea.


Omar's family eventually paid for his release but he still has burns on his body that remind him of the torture he endured.


"My family in Eritrea paid to get me out and now I'm here, trying to survive, and it's not easy to find a job," says Omar.


Omar lives in a former car garage. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)
Omar lives in a former car garage. (Photo: Assaf Kamar)


When night falls, residents say the atmosphere in the neighborhood changes. Sometimes the car lot fills up with extravagant cars owned by questionable club goers looking for paid sex, drugs and gambling.


Dozens of one bedroom apartment, shielded by bars and shutters, hide the various activities that take place there. Sometimes, only the pink laundry that airs out to dry and towels flapping in the wind hint that there are people who actually live there.


In the future, plans are in the works to build high-rises and commercial buildings. Lawyers are already touring the area that has promising real-estate potential. But as of right now, poverty rules over the area.


In response to the dire situation in the neighborhood, the Tel Aviv – Jaffa Municipality said: "The municipality invests in several efforts to keep public order in the area. In about three months, a police station will open up in the area (which will also be entrusted with handling the prostitution). Additionally, the Urban Security Patrol has already begun its operation in the area and will perform regular tours in the neighborhood."


פרסום ראשון: 02.08.15, 00:23
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