Photo Credit: Guy Yechiely
New Tel Aviv shelter, "The Gagon" is named for Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, late founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Tel Aviv’s popular Mayor Ron Huldai says a three-story new shelter — “The Gagon” — that opened this week on Elizabeth Berger Street could be a way to address the city’s problem with street gangs.

The new shelter, named for the late founder and long-time president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was designed by architect Yoav Messer. It was built under the auspices of the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, and La’Sova, in cooperation with the Tel Aviv Foundation, through donations from IFCJ.


Those who stay at the shelter will be provided with bedding, food, shower, laundry services, lockers for storing their belongings and referrals for medical treatment.

Intended to provide a comforting and safe environment for its residents, numerous porches and patios overlook the sea. A municipal social worker stays in the 1,540 square-meter shelter and offers treatment to those in need. Tenants can enter every day from 3 PM until 9 AM the following day. Each incoming resident receives a bed, sheets, a towel and a locked drawer for his belongings.

Other facilities in the area, also managed by the municipality, provide similar services for men and women recovering from addiction.

“Multiplicity, variety and difference are not foreign to the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, but in the diverse mosaic of communities that make up the city’s resident population, there are those that need more careful attention, a unique set of services,” Huldai said.

“Street gangs are not a unique phenomenon to us, but their scope and strength are evident in Tel Aviv –Yafo,” the mayor noted, saying The Gagon “provides shelter, a roof and a warm corner for those who lack a family or social support network – it is a home.

“The shelter, as well as the network of support and care provided by the unit for children, are a clear expression of the values so close to us – values of social justice, maintaining human dignity and respecting others,” the mayor added.

According to a city spokesperson, “The main goal in planning the shelter structure was to provide a roof for unhoused people while maintaining the core values of human dignity. Therefore, at the time of planning, emphasis was placed on aspects such as maintaining the privacy of those who enter, along with fostering faith in their ability to return to a normal life.”

The Gagon has 19 sleeping rooms and can accommodate up to 144 tenants, male-only at present, the spokesperson said. The shelter is disability-accessible, with a shower room and toilet for every two rooms, and includes rooms that are especially suitable for people with disabilities. A kitchen and dining room holds up to 60 diners, terraces for meetings and activities and two workshop rooms for board games, cards, reading and internet surfing with a direct view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Former combat soldier-turned-grocery store owner Gabi, 62, came upon hard times after getting under the bad influence of those involved with crime and drug abuse. Working to support his children as they graduated from university, he ended up being homeless for a year, sleeping on the street.

“A social worker convinced me to try the shelter where I got a chance to work there and restart my life,” he said. “They didn’t give up on anyone who was here at the shelter with me and I managed to overcome the drugs. This place is something I could not have imagined existed and gives us the possibilities to look forward with hope.”

There are approximately 1,100 people living on the streets of Tel Aviv-Yafo who are receiving aid from the city’s social services administration, plus at least 90 others who receive no aid.

The municipal unit activities include field patrols throughout the city to locate and monitor street gangs and prevent them from “entering dangerous situations” and with providing shelter; referrals to rehab; legal aid; and comprehensive and long-term psychosocial treatment.

“Street gangs are a phenomenon that exists throughout the country, but their scope and power are evident in the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo because it is a metropolitan city and attracts many different populations,” the city’s spokesperson said.

“Many of the city’s unhoused population sleep in the street, public gardens or abandoned buildings, and often do not have a family or social support network. They are, for the most part, physically and mentally neglected.”

The new shelter is located a short distance from the municipal welfare unit and is the latest addition to other existing shelters in the city which include a shelter for former female drug addicts, a shelter for recovering addicts, and a shelter for children.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.