Tel Aviv's green library

A Tel Aviv community group set up a library in a park shunned by many Tel Aviv residents, hoping to provide a refuge for struggling migrant workers and refugees.

Nathalie Rothschild
Migrant children read books at the Garden Library.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Lewinsky Park, a small patch of green between the old and new central bus stations in Tel Aviv, has acquired a reputation as a no-go area, a hangout for drug users, sex workers, and the homeless. The park is also where the city’s migrant workers and refugees congregate.

They come from countries far and wide – from Eritrea and Sudan to the Philippines and Nepal. Many of them are homeless; others simply rest in the shade.

But lately Lewinsky Park has also become a haven for the children of migrant workers. When a community arts group set up the Garden Library in the park because books provide, in their words, “both escape and shelter, a home, an identity, and a mother tongue,” they also made it a safer place.

Tebyan, a 12-year-old girl from Sudan, is a regular visitor to the Garden Library, where the children’s books are all in Hebrew. She has been in Israel for only seven months, yet speaks Hebrew with great confidence. “I like to come here to play with my friends and to read the books,” she says.

Rami Gudovitch, a community relations coordinator who helps manage the library, explains that the idea behind the Garden Library is that “ ‘the people of the book’ welcome other communities with books.”

At the same time, migrants’ rights activists like Mr. Gudovitch also help the adult library users meet the challenges that come with adapting to a new country. While Gudovitch regrets the government’s harshening stance toward migrants, he also praises Israel’s “susceptibility to welcoming foreigners.”

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