Homelessness in Israel

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Housing protest on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, 2011

Homelessness in Israel is a phenomenon that mostly developed after the mid-1980s.[1] As of 2014, there are an estimated 1,831 homeless individuals in Israel, about 600 of them living on the streets of Tel Aviv.[2] This makes up 0.02% of the country's population, a low figure compared to other developed nations.

The number of homeless people in Israel has grown in the 2000s, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has claimed that the authorities are ignoring the issue.[3]

Some 2,000 families in Israel lose their homes every year after defaulting on their mortgage loans. However, a law amendment passed in 2009 protects the rights of mortgage debtors and insures that they are not evicted after failing to meet mortgage payments. The amendment is part of a wider reform in the law in the wake of a lengthy battle by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and other human rights groups. [4]

The number of homeless youngsters is on the rise. More than 25% of all homeless youth in 2007 were girls, compared to 15% in 2004. A report by Elem, a non-profit organization that helps youth at risk, pointed to a 5% rise in the number of youths either homeless or wandering the streets late at night while their parents worked or due to strained relations at home. The organization estimated that in 2007 it provided programs or temporary shelter to roughly 32,000 youths in some 30 locations countrywide. [5]

Homelessness has increased since the wave of Soviet immigration in 1991. As many as 70 percent of homeless people in Tel Aviv are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, nearly all of them men. According to homeless shelter founder Gilad Harish, "when the recession hit Israel in the early 90s, the principle of 'last in, first out' kicked in, and many Russian immigrants lost their jobs. Being new to the country, they didn't have a strong family support system to fall back on like other Israelis do. Some ended up on the street with nowhere to go."[6]

Adi Nes, an Israeli photographer, has brought public attention to the issue by taking pictures of Israel's homeless.[7]