MK Ben Ari
MK Ben AriIsrael news photo: Yoni Kempinski

MK Michael Ben-Ari faced off against one of his critics from the political far left on Sunday as he visited protesters in southern Tel Aviv. Ben-Ari went to a tent protest against high housing prices in the Hatikva neighborhood, along with parliamentary aide Baruch Marzel.

An activist with the left-wing Hanoar Haoved V'halomed movement saw Ben-Ari and challenged him, calling out, “What are you doing here? I've been here for a week already.”

Ben-Ari responded, “What are you doing here? I grew up in Hatikva and I've been operating an office for public appeals in the neighborhood for eight months.”

Residents of the neighborhood later told Ben-Ari that the young man who criticized him had clashed earlier with locals. Several protesters living in Hatikva had recognized the man as an activist who works on behalf of illegal Sudanese migrants, and had begun yelling at him that he was undermining the same struggle for fairly priced housing that he purported to support.

Illegal migrants and work-seekers have taken many of the apartments in southern Tel Aviv, driving up the price of housing in the area. Illegal entrants have been accused of raising crime rates as well.

Ben-Ari has responded to the flood of illegal entrants by encouraging them to reside in upper-class areas in northern Tel Aviv, in what has been dubbed the “Ramat Aviv First” initiative.

Ben-Ari told protesters, “The main problem [regarding housing] is the illegal entry of Sudanese to the neighborhood, and leftists who want to destroy Israel are hitching on to the very crisis they created.” He called on his fellow MKs to join him in spending time in southern Tel Aviv and hearing residents' complaints “not only when it is popular, but on a regular basis.”

Marzel expressed support for the housing struggle despite the political turn it has taken. “The crisis in the tents in Hatikva, like elsewhere in Israel, is real distress, that for the most part is correct. The solution may not be an apartment on Shenkin Street for every young person, but rather, massive construction in the periphery, in Judea and Samaria, but still, the time has come for the Israeli government to stop making proclamations and start taking action."

“It's true that on Rothschild Avenue the struggle is being led by members of the extreme Left who are doing damage to the cause, and some have even caused serious problems regarding the housing shortage, but we cannot hide our heads in the sand, our community must be involved in the crisis facing Israeli society.”