The words “refugees” and “South Tel Aviv” bring to mind poverty, racism and violence. But Congolese asylum-seeker Oscar Olivier, together with African and veteran Israeli neighborhood residents, is changing that reality. With the help of Achoti, the African Refugee Development Center, NIF and Shatil, they formed Power to the Community, a mixed group that aims to tackle neighborhood problems together.
“We did a wonderful training with Shatil, in which we identified our common interests,” says Oscar, 46, who speaks fluent Hebrew and is the father of a 10-year-old sabra. “We started with security. People are afraid to going out.” The group organizes joint neighborhood patrols and advocates for greater police presence, better lighting and an end to what they see as the municipality’s neglect of the neighborhood. With the proceeds of a community market, the group helps residents in dire need, such as an Israeli woman who was evicted from her home.
“When we started, Israelis called Africans infiltrators. Today you have Israelis who call Africans by their names,” says Oscar.
Oscar reached activists from around the country with his message of dialogue and cooperation at Shatil’s Strategies for Combating Racism Conference, and became a spokesperson for the tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets in early 2014 to ask the government to respect its international commitments to refugees.