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4 YOUR SAY… 6 WHAT’S NEW
We’re hooked! Judi Herman reviews the world premiere of unseen Arthur Miller drama The Hook.
Stitch in time A new quilt reveals the stories of the children rescued from the Nazi camps.
Bold up north Max Dunbar tells Gita Conn about exciting new plans for the Manchester Jewish Museum.
The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens A horticultural gem in the heart of the city.
34 WHAT’S HAPPENING
Listings Our exclusive three-month guide to art, books, film, music, theatre and other cultural events in the UK and beyond.
Family Life’s a beach – even for adults – with JW3’s new summer programme.
Tr y t h i s ! Agi E r do s bakes challah – and gives it away!
Love and crease Origami is bringing Arabs and Jews together.
Lyons tea girl The work of Eva Frankfurther shines at Ben Uri’s centenary show.
TORTURE, RANSOM – AND A BED IN LEVINSKY PARK
TEL AVIV’S ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
Asylum City, the latest novel by Liad Shoham, explores the issue of people trafficking. Helga Abraham joins him for a tour of Tel Aviv – the setting for the book’s murky underworld. Photography Nitzan Hafner
FIRST STOP: TEL AVIV CENTRAL BUS STATION While most African migrants brave the perils of the Mediterranean crossing in order to reach the safe havens of Europe, thousands of others opt for the more accessible, but just as perilous, land route from Egypt, through the Sinai, into Israel.
First stop for most of these migrants is the Tel Aviv central bus station. Located in a poor neighbourhood, for years it served as the gathering point for Asian workers (Philippine, Nepalese, Thai), but is now the centre of the African migrant population.
Much of Asylum City is set here and it’s where I meet the book’s 43-year-old author Liad Shoham. “I was apprehensive about researching here. There were no women or children, just black guys roaming around.”
Shoham is one of Israel’s most popular crime writers (he’s written six critically acclaimed novels) but he’s also a lawyer and often uses the crime genre to talk about social issues. In Asylum City, the murder of an aid activist allows him to delve into the world of Israel’s crime syndicates while portraying the plight of refugees.
The Israeli side of the story began in 2010, when many African migrants (the majority are from Eritrea and a small number from Sudan) began to infiltrate into Israel from the border with Egypt. After paying enormous sums to Bedouins to take them across the Sinai peninsula, they would often be taken hostage in the middle of the desert by the Bedouins, who demanded the fee be tripled to continue the journey. The captives weren’t released until ransoms were paid by relatives, or syndicates in Tel Aviv. Hostages were often subjected to torture, rape, and organ theft, and left to die of hunger and thirst. In Asylum City the protagonist is an Eritrean migrant who is forced to raise 20,000 shekels to free his sister from one such Bedouin torture camp.
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LEVINSKY PARK Our next stop is Levinsky Park, a large spread of green adjacent to the bus station. “When I first came here in 2011”, recalls Shoham, “there were migrants sleeping all over the park. Today the numbers have declined but the atmosphere is more violent. You can feel the tension in the air.”
If the number of migrants infiltrating into Israel has decreased in the last year, it is not due to the perils of the desert crossing. Rather, it’s down to deterrents taken by the Israeli government, including building a high-tech fence along the Sinai border, establishing a detention facility, and preventing the migrants from working – at least officially.
“The government came up with a very Israeli solution to the problem,” says Shoham with a smile. “It told the migrants: ‘we will not give you the right to work but we will not punish firms that employ you!’” He acknowledges the humanitarian aspect of the problem, but fully supports the government’s actions: “The infiltration would otherwise have turned into one enormous ticking bomb.”
According to the Population, Immigration and Border Authority there are over 50,000 African migrants living illegally in Israel. Most are Eritrean, Christian men. “Suddenly we have a huge non-Jewish population in our midst, living without their families, penniless, and resorting to drink and violence. We never had such a situation before.”
Clockwise from top: afternoon in HaSharon street, next to the old Tel Aviv centra bus station; groups of migrants sleeping in Levinsky Park; at the old Tel Aviv bus station
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Asylum City Helga Abraham investigates the world of Tel Aviv’s African migrants, whose stories form the basis of a new gripping crime novel.
16 The way we were As the Israel Museum turns 50, Angela Levine applauds its anniversary show.
Summer of klezmer Sophie Solomon picks five Klezmer in the Park bands to get you dancing.
Son of Saul Jason Solomons interviews Géza Röhrig, the rabbi turned film star of an acclaimed new Holocaust film.
Hofing it Judi Herman meets Ayelet Nadav, one of Hofesh Shechter’s new young team.
18 Singapore fling This year the island republic celebrates its golden jubilee. Moshe Elias remembers his childhood there among a cast of colourful Jewish residents.
Passage through Portugal An ancient mikvah, hidden communities and magnificent synagogues all characterise the sometimes stormy history of Jewish Portugal.
The village of secrets Belmonte’s Jews concealed their religious identity for centuries. JR meets them and hears their remarkable story.
30 The English connection Portuguese Jews made a distinctive mark on England – including saving it from the Armada. This special feature celebrates that history, with a focus on today’s Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation.
Cocaine for the brain Novelist Linda Grant assesses the work of Saul Bellow in his centenary year.
Not Jewish – just American Writers Adam Foulds, Adam Thirlwell and Zachary Leader pick their favourite Saul Bellow reads.
A dog’s life Judi Herman speaks to Asher Kravitz about his novel The Jewish Dog.
Alter of stupidity? Michael Berry reviews a biography that examines Einstein’s relationship to Judaism.
Kosher wine you can drink It does exist! Agi Erdos picks three of the best to prove it.
62 LAST WORDS
Cold Belly Button David Herman revels in Saul Bellow’s Yiddish verse.
C O N T E N T S
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