By Pablo Duer
Tel Aviv, Mar 16 (EFE).- Recently named the world’s most expensive city, the thriving economic and tech innovation hub Tel Aviv is also home to slums where an impoverished minority struggle with rising living costs and gentrification.
The neighborhoods of Shapira and Neve Sha’anan are strewn with loose cables, dead rats, people sleeping on the pavement and trash, lots of it.
This is the other side of Tel Aviv, a few meters south of the financial district, which was ranked the planet’s most expensive city to live in by The Economist newspaper.
“Israelis from the rest of the city do not set foot in this area, and when they do they are astonished, they have no idea what is happening here,” Ami Giz, a tour guide who lives in the neighborhood, tells Efe.
“There is a Rothschild Tel Aviv to the north, where everything is beautiful, organized and first-class, and there is another Rothschild Tel Aviv to the south,” Kobi Aharami, a resident of Shapira, tells Efe from his store that stocks all sorts of things, from plants to used kitchen utensils.
Rothschild Boulevard, a fast-paced avenue packed with electric scooters and co-working spaces, is light years from Mesilat Yesharim Street, which houses Aharami’s store alongside dilapidated houses that function as make-shift shops and the only bike lane in the neighborhood, which is peppered with treacherous potholes and dried up plant stumps.
Idris Adam, one of nearly 30,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea residing in Israel, has a laundromat on the same street.
According to the Haaretz newspaper, asylum seekers and African migrant workers make up two-thirds of the population of the Neve Sha’anan slum and a considerable chunk of Shapira residents.
“Life here is good, I feel like I’m part of a community and a family, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep my business because of rising prices and rents, which go up every year,” Adam, originally from Sudan, says.
The spike in prices, which is the primary concern of dozens of residents Efe spoke to, is due to gentrification in overdrive.
Shapira has become a magnet for young artists and students who have been pushed out of more expensive neighborhoods.
“I come from an apartment in Jafa, which is very expensive, and now I am looking for something that has a nice rooftop with a small room so I can live pretty much outside with a very low cost of expenses,” artist Yahel Idan, who could no longer afford to keep his 5,000 shekels ($1,533) a month apartment, says.
“Tel Aviv is pushing away artists like me,” the artist adds. “I am concerned that we have narrowed down our society.”
In Neve Sha’anan, developers have started snapping up real estate as an overhaul of Tel Aviv’s southern neighborhoods threatens the livelihoods of the city’s poorest.
According to Nathan Marom, a professor at Reichman University who has been studying the evolution of Tel Aviv’s urban ecosystem for years, this process is due to an increasingly high cost of living in the city and will trigger the inevitable departure of those with fewer resources to poorer areas in the suburbs or even other cities.
“This is a pity because Tel Aviv will lose many of the characteristics that make it a cosmopolitan city,” he warns.
“It will retain some, such as the presence of multinational companies and tourism, but it will lose other important elements, such as being a home for migrant workers, who will still be required for more precarious jobs,” he adds. EFE