Eilat is a pleasant seaside city, a popular resort and a port city. It’s also ground zero for Israel’s troubles with African migrants. With only 48,000 residents, the 7,000 African migrants now make up 15 percent of the city. And that number is clearly unsustainable, especially with a thousand new migrants arriving every week into the country.
The mainstream media has latched on to Israeli protests, primarily in working class neighborhoods, against the migrants, but as the case of Eilat shows, it really is a severe problem. Eritrean and Sudanese African migrants have contributed significantly to Eilat’s unemployment problems and its crime situation.
Some African migrants in Eilat merely take tourism jobs from the locals, others however sell drugs and commit robberies. Entire neighborhoods have been taken over, worrying residents who can no longer feel safe letting their children play in the street.
In 2011, Israeli Police recorded a 45 percent increase in criminal cases against foreigners, largely driven by African migration. Blogs such as Mistanenim, along with the more politically incorrect tabloids, have chronicled the situation in South Tel Aviv and Eilat.
This is what the situation actually looks like on the ground.
Tiger speaks Hebrew peppered pretty good English and a little Arabic. He’s single, 30 years old, and he won his nickname because he is very flexible. Tiger works locally as a soldier in a criminal organization in southern Tel Aviv, one of three organized criminal gangs. “If I do not robbing or stealing, I’m dead,” he says. “Just that I’m alive.’s Something I have to do to make me how to buy food and pay rent. No job and the best I can do.”
“In Sudan. if you have no money you starving.,then what do we do? Steal, thieves and murderers is part of our life.”
Tiger left Sudan and his parents and five brothers. His face and hands have visible scars. He carries on his person a knife hidden under his shirt in a leather case. Eight years ago he infiltrated Israel, worked in Eilat and escaped three years ago after local police began, in his words to, “sit on my tail.” Later, in conversation he provides another reason for leaving: a conflict broke out between him and another Sudanese opening illegal bars in the migrant areas of Eilat…
The third organization called HaKilerim (The Killers) was considered the most dangerous and specializes in collecting protection money from Jewish businessmen, Sudanese refugees and Romanian workers, Chinese and Filipinos who settled in the area and opened small businesses, as well as prostitutes and drug addicts. This organization also operates betting parlors, massage parlors, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants. In addition to all those engaged in smartphone robbery, kidnapping cases, pimping, drug dealing in very large quantities, bike theft, running stalls selling ethnic foods and making deals on the street.
Successful foreign criminals wear the best brands, Nike or Adidas, wearing gold watches, necklaces and bracelets, and sunglasses luxury. Many of them resemble the look nicer part of American rappers. While the soldiers are living in apartments and moldy old room south of the city, senior bosses can afford to rent apartments of three and four rooms and frequently travel in taxis.
In southern Tel Aviv, on Neve Shanan Street, as soon as darkness falls, the criminals go out and business owners go on alert. “By five – six pm most shops are closed fearing criminals will steal, rob and take protection money,” says a man who sell shoes in the area. “Whoever stays open gambles with his life. Those who do not pay, the criminals break the windows of their stores and put their knives to his throat, destroying and stealing merchandise. They are not afraid of the police. They have nothing to lose.”
This is exactly what Tiger does. Although his appearance is not particularly scary, he makes his rounds of the stores and collects the protection money and gives the money to his boss. “That’s what I do in Sudan. Never learned in school, my parents had no money to send me to school, and to my family not be hungry we were stealing from shops, houses, anything that could get us money,” he says. “I know the South Tel Aviv as if I was born here. Jews also pay us money to keep them in business. Those who do not pay, we destroy his business and steal his money.”
Tiger knows all about the hundreds of cases of violence occurring compound year Neve Shanan and bus station in Tel Aviv, but not reported to the police.
“Those who do not pay us, we break a bottle over the head,” says Ibrahim, a member of the criminal organization “The Killers.”
Nobody messes with the Sudanese and Eritreans,” says a clothing store owner in the area. “The Chinese were very strong here but have now almost disappeared. They are afraid to enter into a tussle. Even the police do not deal with them. There were some that came to my shop, because I did not want to give them free clothes, they took what I had and fled.”
This is the real face of Israel’s African migrant crisis.