Six floors underground, hundreds of Palestinians tolerate hellish conditions in order to try and earn enough to support their families.

SIX FLOOR TO HELLHundreds of Palestinians live six floors underground at the Geha Junction, one of the busiest in the Tel Aviv area. They have slipped into Israel to try and find work so that they can support their families, and spend most nights in the underground parking garage of an unfinished and abandoned shopping mall. Stuck in the darkness, each of the men struggles to preserve their humanity while living in inhuman conditions. “In the dark”, says Jalal, one of the men, “the only thing left is to think. To think about love.”

Director’s statement  Six Floors to Hell 2008

In 2004, the government began expelling foreign workers. As a result, old-new Palestinian workers from the West Bank have returned to Israel’s junctions. Some 20,000 of them enter Israel in places where the separation wall has not been completed, mainly around Jerusalem. Most stay illegally in Israel, sleeping in hideouts during the week and returning home on the weekends. During one of my trips in search of these workers, I met the inhabitants of “the mall” at Geha Junction. The “mall” consists of the foundations of a mall abandoned during construction, which has become a secret underground hideout for hundreds of these workers. In the early morning they stand at the side of the road and offer their labor to contractors. They were in no hurry to reveal their hideout, keeping their secret with a skill of which even the Israeli intelligence services would be proud.

In the framework of a joint cinematographic project with the World Health Organization and the Rabinovitch Fund, I directed a short film on the mall in which I revealed the workers’ life of survival. The film scratches the surface of the issues with which they have to cope: how can one retain one’s sanity and a semblance of humanity when living a hand-to-mouth existence in conditions of uncertainty, under the shadow of police raids? In addition to this existential question, we touched on a more philosophical one – what is “home”? Can the mall be called home, even if it is not of one’s choosing?

In the film I present the mall as a microcosm of Palestinian society and its relationship with Israel. The mall perpetuates a life of survival for a second and third generation. Is the mall, as a symbol, the future of the Palestinian problem, simmering but unseen behind walls and fences?