|The Struggle for a Home in Jerusalem, October 25, 2011|
Following the social protest campaign that began last summer, and particularly the social protest struggle of the homeless, we decided to convene a meeting entitled "The Struggle for a Home in Jerusalem" about public and affordable housing and the condition of the homeless who are still living in tents. About 40 people attended: residents of the public housing tents, social activists, representatives of social organizations, students and university lecturers.
After opening comments, the participants broke down into four groups with each group addressing a different topic concerning the campaign for housing and the university's role in it:
The Stern dormitories: the group discussed the idea that a building that belongs to the Hebrew University and has not been used for six years, and which is designated for student dormitories, be converted into a combination of student dormitories, public housing and affordable housing. The group included students, tent camp activists and university lecturers. The group decided to continue pursuing a dialogue between the heads of the Hebrew University, students and homeless families on the subject.
Connecting East and West: the discussion focused on the question of whether to connect the struggle of the residents of East Jerusalem with the struggle of the homeless in West Jerusalem. The idea of organizing meetings between the Sheikh Jarrah families and the homeless Jewish families was proposed, out of the understanding that they are all victims of the same policy. Another proposal was to hold a panel with a diverse target audience from all parts of the city to present the city's housing issues from different points of view as part of a seminar on housing to be held at Bezalel on December 1.
Policy: this group discussed the existing policy on housing and the necessary changes in order to improve the condition of persons suffering from a lack of housing. The group agreed that government housing budgets should be increased and especially for public housing, which has not been constructed in the past 20 years. The group also discussed the criteria of entitlement to public housing. One of the conclusions was that while acting to change policy, the problems and needs of the homeless are so urgent and immediate that the issue must be placed at the forefront of the social protest campaign through its leaders. The group also decided to continue the dialogue between faculty members and the people in the field.
The squatters: this group included mainly the tent dwellers who occupied an abandoned building on Pinsker Street in Jerusalem for 30 days. The tenants raised their problems and urgent needs and considered possible solutions: a fund-raising event, asking the university to contribute surplus equipment, approaching youth movements and more.
The seminar was led by Etti Chen, one of the women leading the campaign for the homeless in Jerusalem.
To view a film about Etti, press here.