Squatters threaten violence over J’lem eviction

Uncertainty reigned at an abandoned dormitory in Jerusalem on Monday night as the clock ticked closer to the police-mandated eviction of 35 homeless families and activists who broke into the building last week as part of the ongoing housing protests.

The building, on Stern Street in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, is an old student dormitory for the Ein Kerem campus of Hebrew University that has been abandoned for the past five years. The university filed a complaint with the police on Sunday, and it gave the squatters 48 hours to vacate the premises, a period that expires early on Tuesday morning.

The families, most of whom spent the summer living in neighborhood tent cities around Jerusalem – demanding public housing and a roof over their heads – said they would refuse to leave the building until they are provided with housing solutions. Some inhabitants said they would resort to violence, including possibly the use of gas canisters, physical violence or small explosives, in order to stay in the building.

“They were told they have until Tuesday to leave voluntarily, and if they do not leave voluntarily, they will be evicted,” said Jerusalem police deputy spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi on Monday night.

“The police won’t allow any disruption of the peace or any violence against officers.”

Inside the house on Monday, children played hide-andseek in the entryway as inhabitants greeted supporters who brought clothes and other necessities. There are more than 100 people living in the apartment building, including five pregnant women, five babies, and dozens of children.

“We’re worried, we have nowhere to go, my children won’t have a roof over their heads [if they evict us],” said Batya Mizrahi, who was staying in the building with her mother and two children, aged three years and two and a half months.

Opinions were divided over whether or not to use violence in order to stay in the building.

“When you sit and talk, it’s just like filling out more paperwork; things only start moving when you slam your fist on the table,” said Pnina Dadon, who has been trying to get public housing for the past 10 years and is living in a temporary apartment nearby.

“We need to fight to get something done; if we don’t fight, we won’t get anything.”

Miri Ben-Simon, who is squatting in the building with her husband, said, “I hope they’ll come to negotiate with us so they won’t evict us. There are a few people [who are ready to be violent], but we really hope it won’t come to that.”

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