In January, Israel began notifying thousands of Africans who entered the country illegally that they have three months to leave or face incarceration.
The Population and Immigration Authority called on migrants at the same time from Sudan and Eritrea to leave "to their country or to a third country," meaning Rwanda or Uganda. Those who leave by the end of March will be given $3,500, along with airfare and other incentives.
The movement orchestrating the rally, known as “South Tel Aviv Against Deportation”, is expecting thousands to flock to the area to attend from across Israel in a bid to display widespread opposition to the Knesset’s approval of the deportation plan two months ago.
South Tel Aviv has been seriously affected by the wave of illegal migration in recent years that swept through Israel’s once-porous southern border.
Ahead of the demonstration, activists from the “Stand Together” movement recorded a number of famous people in video that has recently been published calling on the public to attend.
“We need to tell the government clearly: We will not stand aside while you deport asylum seekers to a cruel journey of suffering. South Tel Aviv has been abandoned and neglected for years. The time has come to find a real and just solution for everyone,” the activists said in the video.
Shula Keshet, a resident of Tel Aviv’s Neve Sha'anan neighborhood and founder of the South Tel Aviv Against Deportation movement, said that the aim of the demonstration was to call on the government to refrain from deporting elderly inhabitants and asylum seekers.
“Our protest is not right wing or left wing. It is for everyone whose eyes are wide open, both to the distress of the residents and the distress of the asylum seekers,” Keshet said.
Meital Cohen, a resident of public housing, also spoke out against the government plans, suggesting that financial considerations were at play in the decision.
“We cannot allow the deportation of migrants from Africa to take place. If it succeeds with the refugees, me and my neighbors will be next in line. They don’t want asylum seekers living on ‘their’ expensive land,” Cohen argued.
“They don’t want the residents of the neighborhoods and they most certainly do not want residents of public housing. They basically want clean spaces … so the land is available for the wealthy so they can make more profits.”
She also criticized the incitement that she said had permeated south Tel Aviv, led by people who are unfamiliar with the area.
“In south Tel Aviv there is incitement and a lot of brainwashing that is directed by activists, many of whom don’t live in the neighborhood,” Meital added, while another activist described the plan as illegitimate, inhumane.
In an effort to counter the demonstration, crowds are planning to assemble from the other side of the camp, led by “The Front for the Liberation of South Tel Aviv” under the campaign banner of “Remember Esther Galili,” a victim whose murder came to symbolize anger over the migrants’ presence and galvanize protesters into action.
The protest will take place exactly eight years after the Sudanese asylum seeker Yaakov Alpdel killed 70-year-old Esther Galili, near her home in the area near the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station after an argument broke out.
Sheffi Paz, Suzy Cohen and Ayala Sinvani who are leading the demonstration in favor of the deportations were keen to highlight Galili’s murder, arguing that it was being exploited by their opponents.
“This year, on the day marking the murder of Esther Galili, extremist left-wing groups are holding a giant rally under their banner of ‘South Tel Aviv Against Deportation.’ It’s enough to look at what is happening to understand the depths of the hypocrisy and the nerve of these movements,” they said.
“They are not for south Tel Aviv. They are don’t even know south Tel Aviv. For the resident of south Tel Aviv, the sense of security was taken, freedom of movement was snatched, and now they’re trying to take one thing that we have left and are insisting on stealing identity.”
Responding to the accusation however, Keshet bemoaned the fact that it was in fact the trio’s movement that was cynically exploiting Galili’s death for political ends.
“We remember on this day and every day Esther Galili, may her memory be blessed,” Keshet said. “The terrible murder joins more instances of serious violence that have ripped south Tel Aviv apart over the years, whether they were carried out by asylum seekers or Israelis. The blood of the victims is on the heads of the criminals and we must not mark entire communities with the badge of disgrace which belongs to criminals in order to justify the deportations.”
Roads near the rally will be closed from 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
Rwanda announced Friday that it would only absorb Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seeker being deported from Israel if the measures were in accordance with international law.
“Every statement suggesting that asylum seekers in Israel must choose between deportation to Rwanda or prison are offensive and misleading,” an official statement by the Rwandan government read.
“The issue of asylum seekers is an internal Israeli issue, and Rwanda will be happy to help any asylum seeker who comes legally,” it added.