Some years ago, folk diva Chava Alberstein discovered the rundown immigrant neighborhood around the south Tel Aviv central bus station. For the Israeli superstar, the area became a refuge, a place to stroll or sip coffee unmolested by fans. The residents were foreign workers from countries such as China, Thailand, Nigeria and Romania.
But as their numbers swelled to replace Palestinians after the intifada, Alberstein -- considered Israel's Joan Baez -- saw conditions deteriorating.
"These people are brought to Israel, their passports are confiscated so they can't go anywhere and they're forced to live in the worst situations," she said. "You see people crawling out of the most unbelievable hovels. It's bothered me for a long time."