Israel was created as a home for refugees. What happens when African refugees overwhelm a neglected Tel Aviv neighborhood is the subject of the topical documentary Levinsky Park.
Director Beth Toni Kruvant takes us to Tel Aviv’s hardscrabble Hatikva neighborhood, now burdened with an influx of African refugees from sub-Saharan Africa. The refugees aren’t Jewish, they don’t speak Hebrew and they sure aren’t white. Discouraged from working legally, the refugees encamp on the streets and do what they need to survive. The Israeli government senses a lose-lose media profile on the issue and tries to duck it entirely.
So how do the local Israelis react? There is a wide spectrum. Some welcome and try to help people fleeing for their lives. Others tag the newcomers with the loaded pejorative “infiltrators” and try to kick them out. We see some ugly, overt racism in Levinsky Park, but nothing unlike what we’ve seen in the US in the Trump Era.
It’s the same question that confronts all countries in the West about political asylum-seekers – who will actually invite them in? What’s different about Levinsky Park, of course, is that this is Israel – the one nation created by and for refugees.
A leader emerges from the refugees, the charismatic and articulate Mutasim Ali. He frames their plight as a movement, and they strive to regain some control over their own futures. Levinsky Park is a compelling real-life story and screens at the SFJFF:
- Castro (San Francisco), Thursday, July 27 11:15 AM
Albany Twin (Albany), Friday, August 4 4:05 PM.
The SFJFF runs from July 20 through August 6 at theaters in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Albany, San Rafael and Oakland. You can peruse the entire program and buy tickets and passes at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.