Sunday, January 29

"Because the area is a trouble spot" , the Peres Center for Peace

Just a quote of the architect overseeing the construction of the Peres Center for Peace, right here in Jaffa, in Ajami:

"The building is being constructed at 132 Kedem Street, at the eastern end of a seven-dunam lot. It will be about 17 meters tall, and will be built alongside the street. But if we are already talking about symbolism, it will have its back to the east and to Jaffa, and its face to the west, where the entrance will be in a transparent wall facing the sea. The building will be surrounded by a public park being planned by a landscape architecture firm. A central dilemma is whether it will remain open, as is currently planned, or will be fenced in "in order to prevent vandalism and damage to the building, because the area is a trouble spot," as Sheffer says."

No comment...

Police Obstucting BothTraffic and Pedestrians

The presence of the border police in their green jeep, next to Paul's Cafe, our ex-post office and Andre's ever busy icecream parlor have become a street fixture. We almost miss them, when they aer not there. At leats we know where they are and they are not bothering innocent passers by (although they bother quite a few of the young women and girls passing their jeep, with sexist remarks, not fit for quating here.

Yet lately they 've gone a little further. They not only block the pedestrian area, forcing all of us to endanger our lives by having to walk on the street, they now also stop cars right on top of the pedestrian crossing. It appears they really want us to break the law as wel as endanger our lives. The police, "our best friends". Yeah right.

No More Snail Mail from Ajami....

We used to have a small post office on Yefet: 2 friendly employees, a fairly long que waiting at any time, a good time to catch up with the latest neighborhood gossip.

Yet, like our market, the post is no longer, RIP, an ex-post office.
Why? No, this time we are not talking nasty real estate developers, nor collective punishment of Ajamis residents by a nasty bank's management (yes, after our only bank was damaged after a demonstration some years ago, the branch was closed and we have been bank-less ever since).
This time it is due to a typical Jaffa problem, bad infrastructure.
Suddenly the ground opened and where there used to be a floor, there now is a very big hole.
There have been times i wished for such a hole to suddenly open up and swallow me. This was not one of them.

Instead we have a locked door, a nicely worded note that the post office people are very sorry, but services have been terminated until further notice. No indication of when that might be, and what we should do in the mean time, where to get our registered mail in the mean time and generally what the elderly, for who a walk to the far away Jerusalem Boulevard branch is just a little too much, should do when they want to write their sons in the Gaza strip or their daughters in far away Uzbekistan..
There are such things as mobile post offices. All (illegal) settlements in the occupied territories have them.
Perhaps, maybe? Might they not just consider moving in a small postal caravan for the time being?
Come on guys, we need our mail, our social security, our pensions, we need to deposit cash for our relatives held under arrest or in jail, come on, we NEED YOU.

Saturday, January 21

Jaffa Residents - Police Dialogue at AlRabita, Guess Who Didn't Turn Up?

We were there, about 20-25 Jaffa and south Tel Aviv residents,a few members of the press and - ofcourse- your truly.
It was cold, raining cats & dogs outside, yet all of us came, worried as we are, about what is happening in our community. And perhaps more than worried, angry and fed up with police harassment as well as rising street criminality.

After hot drinks and cookies, saying "hi" to old and new friends, we sat down for a mediated talk in Arabic and Hebrew about the police and us.

The police couldn't have been more clear about how they see us: they simply didn't turn up.

Saturday, January 14

"Blessed Rains" - Flooded Houses & Very Wet New Homeless

In Hebrew they 're called "blessed rains - "gishmey b'racha", but after more than a week of them, i tend to call them "gishmey k'lala", cursed rains.
Indeed, there has been an ongoing water shortage for many years now, due to (mostly industrial and agricultural) abuse of that very scarce resource in the Middle East: clean water.
There isn't much of it to begin with, in this areas of the world: The semi-arrid zone, confronted with extended periods of drought. But whatever there is, is quickly and seriously polluted by the industrial waste "produced" by Israel's ever more privatised and globalised industrial giants. In addition, there is over-use, which has lead to brine entering sweet water in the coastal aquifer, thereby rendering it partially useless.
Over the years we have used (and are still doing so) far more water than mother nature holds in stock for us. Our use of sweet water has been out of balance for a long time now.
On the other hand, it does rain, occasionally. And it has been raining in all the coastal plain for over a week now.
Not your gentle winter rains, but floods, a modern Noah worthy: Grey strom clouds, huge amounts of rain coming down in short time spans, dramatic weather, hailstorms fit for staying at home with hot chocolate-milk, under a blanket in a well warmed room (assuming you to have one and being able to pay for heating it, something not quite natural and normal for too many Jaffa inhabitants) with a good book or listening to music.

Good swimming skills are a must if you want to cross the street. Yefet is good for a multi-directional shower: rain from above and muddy rainwater wetting the pedestrian from all sides, whenever a "Dan" bus passes at break-neck speed through the huge fast flowing rivers of what once was , well Yefet street paving.
Jaffa is simply flooded, just like it is every year, only worse, this time.

Given the lack of water, it is a pity the rain water is not collected ofcourse, and the municipality has been doing some infrastructure work, creating a drainage channel in south Jaffa, yet obviously it has not been enough.
True, the rain is strong, yet should this come as a surprise? Why are we "surprised" every year? A few years ago a child drowned in its flooded home not far from here, in the "Pardes Daka" neighborhood. Pardes Daka, in spite of its beautiful name is not a paradise, and the orange trees that once used to grow there, have long since made way for shacks and huts in which very poor people live.
Every year, including this year, homes in south Tel Aviv and Jaffa are flooded, their inhabitants made homeless, their private possessions and furniture made worthless.
But ofcourse, who cares, they are poor people. Not the wealthy ones from North Tel Aviv, where the infrastructure of drainage channels are properly planned and maintained.
Houses in the same area, many of them the same houses, are floooded every year.

"So why don't the people move out?" you ask?. Well, obviously, they would, if they only could....
They have no alternative, as they are too poor and the houses are their only possession, which have become worthless exactly because of the flooding. Thus they are not bale to sell their homes and move elsewhere... (Would you buy a house, knowing it is flooded every winter?).

The houses in Tel Aviv and Jaffa are built on sand. The huge amounts of water move the sand and some of the houses become unstable. Almost every year houses collapse. Yesterday, in south Tel Aviv, in Kiriyat Shalom a 3-story building started collapsing. The people were moved out with the help of the fire brigade and the Tel Aviv Municipal spokesman informed the press they would provide the families with alternative housing for 7 days! How grand. And where shall they go afterwards?
What alternatives do they have? Another few families homeless in another 7 days.

Poor people usually do not have insurance, as they cannot afford to pay the high premiums demanded by the insurance companies for insuring the old houses. They need their small incomes to pay for food, clothing, school fees and study books for their children, electricity to heat at least one room in the house for at least a few hours every day.

My heart goes out to these newly homeless people.

Thursday, January 12

Meeting on Law and Order in Jaffa - January 17th at 18.00 at Alrabita

This time in Arabic and Hebrew only, as it is very local: a meeting at the ElRabita on "Law and Order in Jaffa.
Tuesday January the 17th at 18.00 at the AlRabita Building in Yefet Street, Jaffa.

Kamal Akhbariaye
Yousouf Asfour
A Police Representative

I'll be there and let you know what happened by means of O C C U P I E D!

המרכז לפעילות יהודית ערבית ביפו
المركز للنشاطات العربية اليهودية في يافا

מזמין אתכם לערב בנושא:
يدعوكم لأمسيه بعنوان:

חוק וסדר ביפו?
نظام وقانون في يافا؟

ערב המוקדש לדיון בפעילות המשטרה ביפו
المساء مكرس للنقاش حول عمل الشرطة في يافا

· האם גורמי האכיפה באמת עוזרים למגר את הפשיעה?
· هل تعمل السلطات فعلاً على كبح الجريمة؟
· מהי המדיניות לגבי מעצרי קטינים?
· ما هي السياسة بالنسبة لاعتقال الشبان القاصرين؟
· מהם הכלים בהם משתמשת המשטרה ביפו?
· ما هي الادوات وطرق العمل التي تستعملها الشرطة في يافا؟
· מה התושבים חושבים על הנעשה?
· ماذا يفكر أهل يافا بالنسبة لما يحصل؟

בהשתתפותם של:

-יו"ר ועד שכונת עג'מי וגבעת עלייה-כמאל אג'באריה
-נציג המשטרה
-יוסף עספור


- مندوب لجنة حي عجمي وجبليه- كمال اغبارية
- مندوب عن الشرطة
- يوسف عصفور

הערב יתקיים ביום שלישי.01.06 .17
المساء سيقام يوم الثلاثاء 01.06 .17
בשעה 18:00 במבנה אלראבטה, רח' יפת 70, יפו.
الساعة 18:00 بمبنىالرابطه, ييفت 70, يافا.

נשמח לראותכם تسرنا رؤيتكم

למידע נוסף: للمزيد من التفاصيل:

פיה فايا- 0524434697 איהאב أيهاب- 0509495946

ביום רביעי 01.02.06 יוקרן הסרט "גשר על הוואדי". يوم الأربعاء 01.02.06 يعرض الفلم "جسر على الوادي" פרטים נוספים יפורסמו בהמשך. معلومات اضافية ستنشر مستقبلا.

Tuesday, January 10

Parading the Streets in Jaffa - Devide & Control?

Over the last few days Jaffa's streets saw several parades:
It started on January 2nd with the Christmas parade of the orthodox Christian scouts, who joined forces with the Muslim scouts, the Jewish scouts, the Catholic (Terra Santa) scouts and -unbelievably so- the police orchestra.
They walked the streets, playing songs, holding flags and it all ended in a joint party at the local Arab Jewish community center.
A few days afterwards (on friday the 6th) another parade, this time that of the other Christian orthodox scouts, festive, colorful, playing carols and handing out sweets and shooting of some fireworks and confetti.

Today, the first day of Eid ElAdha, the Muslim scouts had yet aother parade of their own.
The parades, all of them, are fun. The participating children proudly walk the streets in their uniforms. Their not less proud parents and friends applaud them from the side lines.
The police close off Yefet Street.
The atmosphere is festive, fun very special.

Yet the fact that different parades are held by different bodies over such a short time span, should also raise questions.
Jaffa is devided into so many factions. Each with their own organizational bodies, leaders and activities.
The needs in Jaffa are so big, yet instead cooperating we are devided, much less powerful than we could be, if we only worked together.

If we only could define our needs together and pool our resources, work together to realize our rights and improve the situation. If only...


Monday, January 9

Continued Destruction in Jaffa

The heavy noise of a bulldozer, sounds of falling pieces of concrete, building blocks, rooftiles, the dust and smoke smell made it clear even before i arrived at the scene: one more old house destroyed in Jaffa, another piece of history down the drain.

No, the house wasn't particularly beautiful, but it was the last one still standing in the shuk area (the Jaffa Market).
The destruction of our market was started several years ago.
It was done the usual "Jaffa" way. A weathy developer, some say Dudi Appel, but i might be mistaken, suggest a new project, a shopping center, no less.
And ofcourse, some private houses.
Ajami is beautiful, it's close to the sea, not far from the French embassador's house and the fancy Jewish Arab Community Center, in short, prime property, "a good investment", as they say.

Yet the area was home to regular people as well as our market.
Some of the market stall owners were offered money to move elsewhere. Others were made to understand "the Jaffa way", they better move it. When someone explains you something "the Jaffa way", u better grasp it, quickly.
In the end the market was destroyed. There no longer is a food market for us. No more fresh and cheap vegetables and fruit, no longer a place for the poor to gather some free fruit&veggies at the end of the week, no longer a place to meet and gossip, in short, no more market.
The buildings were destoeyed and with it a way of life, our way of life.

Building after building went. Today it was the last sunrise on the one, the last one still standing. A home to a family. It was old, so perhaps a few generations. If i recall corectly it had a lemon tree in the small yard. Lovely old wooden shutters, high celings, old tiles.
Perhaps the inhabitants were given some money in order to move. For sure they have been given lots of promises.

How is this done?
The usual way:
The house is usually owned by Halamish or another public housing company. It was left in 1948. The original owners (or rahter, their children and grand children) are perhaps in a Lebanese refugee camp, in Gaza, in the US or in Europe. The public housing company that took control over the building has refused for many years to properly care for it. The people actually living there, pay the rent, but the company doesn't repair a thing.
Then, over time, the house will start to leak, the walls to crumble, to roof to fall down, bit by bit. The house is declared "dangerous". The company offers the family living there, a small flat in one of the slums. The family has no choice.
It's either that or living on the street, so they move out "of their own free will".

The expensive land is then sold for a big profit to a wealthy owner who constructs yet another villa or closed compound for the very wealthy who are attracted to Jaffa's "oriental" character and by the orientalist promotion material.

Most of the people living in the abominable slums of "Shem HaGdolim" and Mihlol Yoffi" lost their beautiful old houses that way. They got stuck in the slums, and the rich now live in the beautiful old places, sometimes fabulously reconstructed, often newly built.

And all of us no longer have a market...

Friday, January 6

Ariel Sharon, Sabra and Shatila Massacres Remembered

Sharon's stroke keeps the media busy, radio, newspapers, TV, all they talk about is Sharon's health.
Obviously, Israel's-elderly-priminister-just-a-few-months-before-the-elections-hospitalised-after-a-life-threatening -stroke IS news.

Will this stroke leave him capable of functioning as priminister? What about Ehud Olmert, his temporary (?) replacement?
All the media talk/write about, are
the results of Sharon's latest head CT-scan, which areas of his brain have been damaged by the massive stroke suffered about 30 hours ago, Sharon's health prior to his hospitalization etc. etc.
Sharon's working too hard, his age, his family's history of health, high blood pressure and serious weight problems etc.

And ofcourse, the coming elections, the leaderless "Kadima" partry, the chances of the Likud regaining some of its former "glory".
Ha'aretz runs a story of Sharon's glorious life, images of the "bandaged hero" during the yom kippur war.
The Gaza strip pull-out orchestrated by Sharon last August: "Only Sharon could have pulled off that one". Which by the way, may well be true. He's even portrayed as a "champion of peace". Forgotten is his visit to the Temple Mount, one of the triggers of the second Intifade and its two-sided blood-trail.
Forgotten is Sharon's role in the instigation of the Lebanon war and its resulting quagmire of violence, which led to the loss of so many lives on both sides. So much blood, so many tears.

Somehow the words "Sabra and Shatila" don't come up.
Are our memories that short? September the 16th 1982 is ofcourse a while ago, but the massacre has left , so i thought, a lasting memory.
Palestinian refugees, children, women and men in the Lebanese refugee camps Sabra & Shatila were murdered by the Christian "falangists", a mission authorized by and known to Ariel Sharon. A massacre which couild have been prevented.

Ariel Sharon was forced to resign from his post as minister of defence by the Kahan commission, which investigated Israel's involvement in the massacres:
  • ... draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office" - in other words, that he resign; or, if necessary, that the prime minister exercise his authority to remove a minister from office.

The key paragraphs relating to Sharon's responsibility are these:

  • In our view, the minister of defense made a grave mistake when he ignored the danger of acts of revenge and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population in the refugee camps ... It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to move the Phalangists into the camps.

  • In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry into the camps. These blunders constitute the non-fulfillment of a duty with which the defense minister was charged.

People with short memories tend to repeat their mistakes. When those people are powerful politicians, that scares me, a lot.