4000 Jews vs 30,000 Eritreans in south Tel Aviv

Rabbi in south Tel Aviv keeps faith the Jews will win out even though they are 'few against many.'

Benny Tucker ,

הקפות שניות בדרום תל אביב
הקפות שניות בדרום תל אביב
ההנהגה הצעירה של האיחוד הלאומי

After Simchat Torah, residents of the Neve Sha'anan neighborhood in south Tel Aviv held "second hakafot" in the shadow of the ever-present Eritrean threat on their safety and the quality of their lives.

Local Rabbi Achiad Ettinger believes that in the end, the "light will win."

"There are 4,000 Jews here and 30,000 Eritreans. We joke that to enter this neighborhood, you need to arrive in a tank. But slowly more and more young couples are moving here, and you see babies in strollers. We're trying to stop the negative immigration."

Ettinger believes the "second hakafot" brought a lot of light to the neighborhood.

"It was the epitome of the prayer to 'return us to days of old' - residents of every neighborhood in south Tel Aviv came to join our celebration. We danced in our old yeshiva building, which stood completely deserted for several years. Every year you hear Eritrean music here, you see drunkards in the street, and suddenly there's a strong light, there are Torah scrolls and Jewish music and it's very exciting and emotional, there's a lot of light."

Rabbi Ettinger also expressed hopes the neighborhood will see better days.

"The people of Israel return to every place [they have lived in], and even here we're seeing people return. They grew up here, left, and now they're coming back. Our message is that this is a place of Torah and living here is Zionism in its truest form. Sometimes the hardest places have the greatest potential, and that's what two people told me yesterday, when they felt G-d's presence so strongly."

However, none of this exempts the government, who is responsible for the Eritrean infiltration's reaching such large numbers, from taking practical steps to save the neighborhood.

"The Prime Minister and government officials made us promises, and we're hoping they'll fulfill those promises. We're doing our spiritual and practical parts, bringing yeshiva students and young families with babies to our neighborhood. It gives the longtime residents hope and encouragement, as well as a sense of safety. The negative immigration has started to dwindle, because suddenly you're seeing young couples coming in," Ettinger concluded.

Neve Sha'anan is an old but historic area of Tel Aviv built in 1923 which became a Sudanese and Eritrean infiltrators' stronghold over the past decade. The Supreme Court severely limited the ability to jail infiltrators and many claimed to be refugees, further complicating the issue. Crime rates in the neighborhood have soared, making Israeli residents fear for their safety and sparking protests and the forming of activist groups.