Friday, October 20

Paul Celan buried in Jaffa

"Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite
your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers
He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you'll rise then in smoke to the sky
you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too cramped"
Paul Celan, from "Death Fugue"

Jaffa has many numbered streets, nameless alleys usually, known to their inhabitants only by a number, usually three thousand four hundred and something.
Evey now and then, a municipal committee meets to name new streets. There are long waiting lists of recently and not so recently dead people whose names will, once upon a time, become someone's address.
In Jaffa, in Al Ajami especially, we have streets named after rabbis, histadrout (the labor federation) officials, zionist leaders and what not. What not? "Who not", you mean to say.

In Al Ajami specially and Jaffa in general, there are 3 streets named after Arab people: Jaffa's last Palestinian mayor, Abed el Raouf Al Bitar, George Nasar, a histadrut official (seen by many as a yesman for the establishment (in less nice terms, a "mashtap") and then , finally, a small street named after Abed elGhani, a Palestinian man from Jaffa, who died while trying to save the lives of a group of Jewish teenagers who were attacked by a knife wielding terrorist some years ago.

All recent street names have been dedicated to people who had little or nothing to do with Jaffa.
Once, while walking around in my area, i was questioned by a family of very "zfonni" north Tel Avivians about "the quality of my neighborhood".
The municipality had suggested to them they would name a street after their dear dead (who had been a conductor or composer), and the family had come to check it out, prior to giving their OK. I had a great time showing them around and making them listen to the truly wonderful music by Om Kalthoum coming from the windows of what is now MY appartment, but was then lived in by a young man who loved to listen to her at full volume. They decided the area wasn't good enough.

Why can't there be a street named after Om Kalthoum (who performed twice in Jaffa, prior to 1948) or Abed elWahab, or Farid El Atrash or perhaps...
And if these are problematic, then what about Emile Habibi, writer and recipient of the Israel Prize for literature and ex-member of the knesset? It would be nice if streetnames reflected Jaffa's cultural diversity.

Most streets in Tel Aviv have names, so whenever the naming committee meets, they really deal only with south Tel Aviv and Jaffa, where there are still some numbered streets. The policy of naming streets after people who had no connection to Jaffa, nor cultural relevance for Jaffaites and whose names can often not even be expressed properly by Jaffa's residents is bothersome. The lack of Palestinian names reeks of discrimination. So does the lack of female names. I read in one of our local rags that only about 8% of Tel Aviv's streets have been named after women.
Sometimes the streets had names already, and these are simply wiped out, replaced, thereby replacing pieces of history and wiping out peices of national identity and culture (e.g. renaming Boustrous street as Raziel Street).

But sometimes, in spite of above mentioned criticism, i'm happy with some of the names. A street named after Israeli poetess Yona Wollach or after the German-writing Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan are a reason for pleasure.
They are not third league local politicians, but people who truly left a cultural mark.

Yet when looking at WHERE those streets are actually located, and checking if they really are streets.... i feel Paul Celan has been buried once more, symbolically, painfully.
The exit of the parking lot at the "Panorama Building" (a large "small industry" complex located next to the Abu Kabir jail, is that the view indicated by its name "Panorama"?) is NOT a street, and to name it after the writer of "Death Fugue" is truly like a cultural burial.

In the city of property developers and construction tycoons, poetry no longer has a place.

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