In the past fifteen years, tens of thousands of Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have crossed into Israel. The majority of these people now live in south Tel Aviv.
Shapira, a traditionally blue-collar enclave, is one of the neighbourhoods they have ended up in. Hipsters have also begun to move into the area, complete with fixie bikes and yoga lessons. These newcomers have come into conflict with Shapira’s original inhabitants, most of whom are religious Jews from Uzbekistan, Turkey and Greece.
During the past twelve months, I interviewed people in Shapira to see how they wound up there and what they think of the things happening in the neighbourhood. Here’s what some Filipino teenagers had to say
BC, EM, AG and NK – aged 12-17
DM: Do you guys live in this neighbourhood?
BC: We all live in Shuk HaCarmel, we’re just in Shapira for the scouts.
NK: No she’s wrong. I live close to here, near to the school on HaAliyah [a street in Tel Aviv].
DM: And you guys were all born in Israel?
In unison: Yes!
NK: We’re all Filipino, our parents are workers here.
DM: So do you guys feel Israeli, Filipino or something else?
DM: And do you feel that Israelis want you to be here or not?
NK: We don’t care. I mean, sometimes yes, people say things to you. But, you know, we don’t give a fuck. We are all humans. Everyone here is in the same school. There are Filipinos, Sudanese, Jews, Eritreans. we’re all equal. Everyone respects each other. We all hang out with each other.
EN: I’m also not fully Filipino. I’m half Arabic, half Filipino.
BC: Right, we are all friends. There’s no separation between us. Not here at scouts and not at school.
DM: Ok, and we’re in here in south Tel Aviv. Some of you live here, some don’t but you all come for scouts. What do you think of Shapira?
AG: Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. It really depends.
BC: It depends on whether you have an Israeli passport!
AG: It depends on a few things. For example, sometimes in Neve Sha’anan it’s kind of shit. But here in Shapira, it’s like everyone is connected to each other. And….yea it’s nice.
BC: People can think what they like but they don’t really know about this area.
AG: You have this feeling that, even if it’s not clean or the buildings are shit, everyone knows each other. They’re all friends. You understand?
NK: Sometimes life here is good. Sometimes it’s bad. That’s it.
DM: When is it good and when is it bad?
NK: It’s bad when there are wars, when there are problems in Gaza.
DM: But is that your problem? If you are a Filipino in Israel, are you really affected by a conflict that’s between Arabs and Jews?
NK: Of course we are affected because we live here. You can’t escape it.
AG: Some Filipinos obviously care because they serve in the army. So we are thinking about them.
DM: That’s interesting. And do you guys think you will join the army?
AG: I feel like….I wouldn’t not want to be in the army. I don’t know. I have a good side and a bad when I think about it. On the good side, they give you everything in the army. They teach you a lot. On the bad side, I think it would be boring.
DM: And dangerous, no?
AG: Yea, I guess. Yea it might be dangerous also.
DM: What else? Is war the only bad part of your life here?
BC: Also the deportations are bad. When they kick people out. A few days ago, they took some Filipinos and they forced them to leave the country.
DM: Could that happen to you guys?
BC: No, we have Israeli ID cards.
DM: But not a passport?
BC: No, we have Filipino passports but also Israeli ID cards. When we’re 16, we can apply to receive an Israeli passport. I am going to do that when I turn 16.
DM: Have you ever actually been to the Philippines?
NK: No, never.
AG: I did. It was pretty cool.
DM: Ok, but I want to understand then. You grow up here and most of you have never been to the Philippines but you still think of yourselves as Filipino?
BC: Comme ci, comme ca, half half.
AG: To be honest, I don’t think of it that much.
NK: I want to live in America anyway.
BC: yea, me too.
NK: In Los Angeles.
BC: My mum just came here to work and that’s it. It doesn’t bother me where I live, you understand?
AG: I don’t know what to tell you, to be honest. We are just here for scouts. To have a nice time and enjoy ourselves. To have fun, that’s it.