Friday, September 1

Rubbish and more rubbish (including asbestos), instead of a park

Jaffa has a lovely beach, but it is a relatvely small one.

Jaffa also has a huge mountain, covering what used to be Jaffa's gorgeous ancient Al Ajami beach. A mountain made up entirely out of rubbish, a true monster.

Most of Jaffa, as can be seen from aereal photographs from as late as the 1960-ies, used to have a very long beach, running from south of Jaffa harbor to today's beach, all along Street nr. 60 (or Kedem street as it is called nowadays). A wonderful beach, used by fishermen and all locals for swimming and recreation.
By the 1960-ies many of Jaffa's once magnificent "Arab" houses had started to delapidate as a result of the complex social processes as well as the continued influence of of the salty sea air on buildings which are not properly maintained. Over 7000 houses were subsequently destroyed, their rubble simply dumped into the sea. The Jaffa beach had become the place to dump building rubble and as well as other rubbish completely for free. Contractors from all over the country came with their truckloads which soon turned into a huge mountain, where there once was a beach and water, where fish swam and children played. The mountain runs along the coast for about 2 km's, is about 500 m. wide and is today more than 20 m. high at some places. A mountain made entirely out of rubbish. Some of it Jaffa's beautiful old houses, a true grave for Jaffa's Naqbe.

The idea behind the mountain was to create a piece of artificial seafront land on which villas for the very wealthy would be constructed. The arrival of those very wealthy people would "raise the level of the locals" (yeah right, we really need that).

But, the mountain was dumped in such a way that it proved unstable. So large construction on top of it would be very problematic and unsafe.

The mountain also cut of Al Ajami from the sea. Streets which once had a gentle slope towards the sea now end in a huge mountain, suddenly rising out of nowhere. The fresh seawind in summer and beautiful view has been blocked. On top of the mountain wild plants started to grow and in winter, at some hours of the day, it is almost beautiful.

When the first and the second gulf wars came around, the US army placed a battery of Patriot anti-missile missiles on top of it, surrounded by barbed wires and guards. We in Al Ajami were woken up by American marching music competing with the muezzin, a weird sound, but all that is now memory (and it better stay memory).

This time the Jaffa people (by means of Al Rabita and Yafo Yefat Yamim, two NGO's, one a Palestinian NGO, the other a mostly Jewish NGO) decided not to play the municipal planners' game and took the municipality to court and won. Moreover, the recent law concerning construction on public beaches has saved our beach, so we hope for ever, from real estate interests.

As a result the mountain is to be turned into a park. Jaffa has about 50% of the green areas per resident as compared to the rest of Tel Aviv. Thus, a park serving everyone is actually quite welcome.
The municipality (by means of our local branch, the so-called mishlama) even met with different groups of residents, in order to hear about our needs and share in the planning (which at the time of the meetings had been almost finalized, so perhaps the meetings were meant more to pacify as than anything else) .

The park plan includes grinding the mountains huge concrete and other blocks into smaller stones and sand, completely changing the mountain's shape in order to make it into a natural part of Jaffa, sloping towards Al Ajami and towards the sea and re-creating a few pieces of beach.
The plants used will be natural mediterranean and there are supposed to be bike paths, places for children to play etc. etc. In theory not a bad plan at all.
The grinding of a mountain this big scared us, residents, a lot (and still does), because of the dust and other particles it would create, which are all carried inland by the winds coming in from the sea.
The planners told us not to worry, the dust would be monitored and on very problematic days, the work would be stoppped and solutions find. Whenever i am told not to worry, i tend to get VERY worried.

About a year ago some huge machines arrived on top of the mountain. Walls made out of industrial steel were put all around and the work started.
My house is dustier than ever, but the work seemed to be going quickly and the mountain indeed started to change its shape. Close to the harbor (the northern part of the mountain) it is now gently sloping, more to the south it is twice as high as before. Huge new mounds of differently sized blocks, stones, sand and iron top it off on its southern end.

My house is dustier than ever and my lungs don't seem to like it too much either.

Then all of a sudden the work stopped. They say their is a fight between the contractor and the municipality. As a result, we are stuck with an even bigger monster, twice as high as before, no park, no beach and what is scarier, very unhealthy air.

On my last walk on top of the "thing", yesterday, i noticed lots of small pieces of asbestos roofing. Apparently they have also ground tons of asbestos that were buried in the mountain. I assume that when you grind asbestos, its fibers come loose and the wind carries them inland. And keeps carrying them inland.

So what is the sum of our "beachpark" sofar: 1 monster, no park, no beach, no view, lotsa asbestos dust.
Thank you very much, mayor.

GivatHaZevel, the Rubbish Mountain
Jan 9, 2005 - 33 Photos

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