Thursday, October 19

The Godfather of all Cats - Cats of Jaffa, Part 2

Once upon a time, there was a market in Ajami in Jaffa. Actually, there were quite a few markets but over time they were closed, usually not in a peaceful way. The last remaining true market, was closed and then destroyed by the municipality about one year ago.

There is ofcourse that 'thing" called "flea market", which IS fun, but it's for tourists from north Tel Aviv and beyond. (Although historically speaking, it was "souk a'dir", the "monastry's market", which was a meat market, before 1948). Most of Jaffa's residents do not frequent the fleamarket that much, although quite a few are employed in it. Many of today's business owners do not live in Jaffa.

The Ajami market was also known as "souk al yehud" or "shouk ha'etrog" (the Jewish market or the Etrog Market). It was a wonderful market, selling mostly fruit and vegetables, fresh green herbs, pots & pans, shoes, sweets, pulses, nuts and then there was a tiny stall where a very old peasant woman sold eggs. People came from all over Jaffa, Tel Aviv as well as Bat Yam to buy whatever they needed. The big busy market day was friday morning.
Good produce, great prices and a wonderful atmosphere were all part of what makes a market a good market.
But in Jaffa, as always in Jaffa, there are other interests, and property developers put their interest on the market area, a large piece of land, between Yefet street and the sea, close to the "Al Rahim" house (today the French embassy) and the Arab Jewish Community Center, in short, prime proerty in gentrifying Jaffa.

In Jaffa the saying goes, Daoud Tufah (for the Arabic challenged: Dudi Apel, a rich fatcat with, so they say, mafia connections, i have no idea what's true and what isn't) bought the land in order to construct a shopping center and housing for the wealthy.
Threats, bribes and judicial orders killed our market.The market stalls were destroyed using big yellow bulldozers, lots of security guards and some police men. Then the municipality planted fully grown olive trees (where did those come from? Who uprooted them and why?) in order to prevent construction by anyone else but the new owners of the land.

The market stall owners dispersed, some of them opening small stores along Yefet street (Gabriel's vegetable store, the chocolate & sweet store opposite Cafe Paul, to mention a few), others took their produce to the streets, by means of horse drawn carts).

The products at the stores are more expensive than those at the market. Jaffa's elderly and more now take bus nr. 10 to the Carmel market or nr.46 to the area of the old central bus station, where fruit and vegetables are cheap. Indeed some of the old market employees are employed in this area today, receving a msall salary for the work they once did as owners of their own little business.

Yet the REAL owners of the Ajami shouk are still there: the fatcat-lead bunch of wild cats living of the big green garbage container close to the well known "Abu Hilwe" butchery and "Marwan's" restaurant. Two businesses, located in Mendes France street, once gracing our market's main entry.
Being a vegatarian, i don't exactly frequent either store, but my friends say the quality of the produce is as excellent as once the fruit and vegetables sold on our market.
The cats are led by a slow moving extremely strong menacing monster, shown on above picture.
No, these cats do not have names. They are wild and defend their territory by all available means and in Jaffa that means anything, a lot, mean, fierce, "fair game" is for pussies.

Quite clearly they are on the Abu Hilwe and Marwan payroll. As their green container headquarter's located quite close to the home for the elderly (the ugliest building on Yefet, the high pink appartment tower), there apears to exist a strange agreement between one of the elderly Russian speaking ladies and the cat leadership. She provides water on hot days, the stalinesque cat leader allows her to stroke his head a few strokes at the time.

But then, when you are the true leader, you can allow yourself an indulgence now and then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yudit,beautiful writing

A favour ...would it be possible to put a map of Jaffa and Tel Aviv on your site ,,so when you mention certain streets or areas one can look it up on the map?