Wednesday, April 18

Jaffa Harbor Destruction

Sometime, between 5000 - 4000 years ago, people settled down in the Jaffa harbour area. A natural harbour, protected by rock formations against high storm waves and any enemy not acquainted with its tricky entrance. It was a logical choice, for people using stone and later bronze tools. There were sweet water sources, the soil was excellent for fruit trees and flowers. The sea, at that time, had plenty of fish.
The small village developed into an affluent city, by then known as Ya-pu, ruled by the Egyptians. The Ya-pu tax records were found in the Tel AlAmarna excavations and indicate the citizens were wealthy enough to pay a lot of tax. Then came the Philistines, the Hebrew kings for a few years, the Greek, the Romans, the Mameluks, the crusaders, the Turks, the French, the Brits and today, the state of Israel.
Jaffa is reported to be the oldest continually inhabited harbour city in the world.
The harbor was its major source of income for many centuries.
However, with the arrival of the tall steamships, the harbour started to loose much of its commercial attraction: the ships were too big to fit in, and the natural rock formations which had always proteced Jaffa, now were an obstacle. Newer, much deeper harbours were constructed elsewhere, and the Jaffa harbor became a fishermen & small boats harbour. In over the years 1947-1948 the majority of Jaffa's Palestinian population were forced to leave and the harbour became a shadow of its former self.
The city, which had been a cultural centre for the country's Palestinian population, started to loose much of its former splendour.
It kept many of its old characteristics, but "The Bride of the Sea" had become tired.

The municipality intends to develop the harbour area into a sort of pleasure & tourist area, with restaurants, clubs, a large parking place, a hotel etc. Some of the buildings will be restored, but the majority are being demolished.
I have used the old warehouses several times as a backdrop for photographs, never ever thinking that i would see their destruction.
Another piece of Palestinian Jaffa is being erased.
The municipality is proud of its developments in Jaffa. To me, the ongoing gentrification process simply means one thing: kicking out Jaffa's people, erasing its proud Palestinian past.


Lirun said...


i am confused.. why is the removal of warehouses a nationalistic/racist issue..

i too loathe the idea that the heritage of yaffo be removed.. but you previously described how the city went through countless transformations.. we are we now prohibited from conducting our own..

the idea of recklessly disposing of history is a shame.. but why is a country not entitled to make a mark in its towns..

i spoke to my grandmother last night who told me stories of how during the battle over yaffo bullets flew into her home and how she ran with her baby son (my uncle)at night to her uncles studio apartment deeper into telaviv.. about how her sister who lived in yaffo was chased out and how when she returned her whole house was burned to a char with all of her possessions and memories from generations destroyed..

its not like it is purely unilateral..

that aside i am pro preservation mixed with responsible levels of progress..

yaffo is a ghost re-emerging into the living.. yes its population is changing but people can say the same about almost every town in the world.. the nature of population is that it is transient..

personally - as a newcomer to yaffo - (given that my mother is from telaviv dad from jerusalem and the parts my family that have had constant dwellings in israel were in jerusalem and tiberias) am madly in love with yaffo - for me it has the charm of jerusalem with a mediterranean breeze.. for me like jerusalem it belongs to all.. i love watching people of all walks of life fill my streets.. i went to macdonalds on j blvd for the first time the other day and delighted at how jewish and muslim kids played together with the McToys.. :)

Luke said...

You sound like my former history teacher (should have burnt the place the first day I set foot in it), dont you have anything better to do, hang around in bars, drink yourself unconscious, smoke havanna's or show the babes your fancy place and your ecological produced sofa and .............

yudit said...

Lirun, you yourself are fairly new to Jaffa and as a result have not witnessed the continued, on-going, years-long destruction of anything Palestinian. Over 4000 Arab houses have been destroyed and thrown into the sea, thus creating the "garbage mountain" of ill fame. (now being turned into the "midron Yafo park").
Wherever there is something of Palestinian cultural significance, a great effort is being made to wipe out its Palestinian character. Names of streets (Nouzha became Jerusalem boulevard, Boustrous became Raziel, Hilwe Yefet and i could go on). Jaffa's history is being rewritten, a very particular narrative replacing its rich multi-cultural past.
Yes, there has been violence in Jaffa in the 20th century, on both sides, mind you, and that's awful.
Jaffa is not an emerging ghost, Jaffa has a large Palestinian population, who are "see through" people to the wealthy developers, see-through people, who should be made to leave, so it will become a nice bourgeois orientalist kitsch abode for the very wealthy.
The warehouses in the harbour are a part of the other 497 homes about to be destroyed, in order to make place for fancy buildings for the very rich.
By calling Jaffa a "ghost" i guess yuo are over looking 2000 people who are right now very much alive, yet about to be kicked out off Jaffa(ethnic transfer is a word that comes to mind), as their houses are to be destroyed as well.
"Funny" enough ALL of these people are Palestinians....
There is a pattern here.

Lirun said...

yudit i am new to yaffo as a resident but its not like my family just got off the boat.. my roots here are continuous and deep..

i dont think it takes a genius to see that ajami beach is a disaster and that someone has clearly been very reckless (at the very very very very least) with respect to a whole population's quality of life not to mention the natural heritage of this land whoever its owners may claim to be..

out of curiosity to you feel the same way about kerem hateymanim? or about neve tzedek today - just like yaffo - housing both very very rich and very very poor people..

it is a sad fact of urban life that rich areas maul poor areas and make way for their own expansion..

but it is even scarier when poor areas do it rich areas and you watch economic pillars flee overseas and take with them what little is left of the economy that provides for those poor people..

my building in yaffo has muslims and jews and christians and perhaps others that i am unaware of.. while i mingle a lot with my neighbours and talk to them almost everyday as i enter the stairwell i have never had an unpleasant conversation with any of them..

just yesterday i was explaining to two muslim kids playing with two of their jewish friends about my surf board and how you catch a wave..

we all get along very well..

true i came to yaffo because i like the grunge and i like the antiquity and in many ways when you attack yaffo's new gentrification prone population i cant help feeling included in that address..

but in the four months that i have lived here i have watched these kids change attitude from being hostile to every person entering the block to smiling and greeting me every time i arrive..

from throughing rubbish constantly into the central yard to telling me how they care about the upkeep heheheheh they are so cute..

i think population change allows people to mix and blend..

i think the arabs of yaffo should be no more afraid of the yuppies than the jews of florentin rishon and holon should be afraid of the influx of arabs..

they too change the vibe..

i understand what you are saying about the humantiarian aspect but i dont think that yaffo's change in itself is necessarily bad..

anyway.. very loaded topic.. struggling to end my comment heheh

always facsinated by your posts..

שבת שלום

Lirun said...

sorry for the terrible spelling.. and i meant not necessarily bad..

yudit said...

Lirun, the point is not at al your roots, or your relation with your specific neighbours, the point is the continued and systematic destruction of anything that's Palestinian in Jaffa. By calling Jaffa a "ghost", you deny what exists...
And that is exactly what the rich property developers want. And they are making a hell of a lot of money out of it.

Lirun said...

i thought i was keeping in line with:

"and the harbour became a shadow of its former self.....

..The city... started to loose much of its former splendour.

..."The Bride of the Sea" had become tired..."

by the way - on the corner of yeffet street just north of abulafia there is a street monument that describes the nominal history of the street.. it lists various arabic names.. the hilwa one and another as well.. it didnt seem to me to be disrespectful.. it also described the names that preceded the arabic names and explained the significance of the street as well as jerusalem boulevard which apparently once was the way people would leave to get to jerusalem.. just as yeffet/hilwa and once called aza was the way people would get to azza (gaza)..

again.. unfair housing issues one thing - gentrification another but thats just my view..

שבוע טוב ידידתי

J.P. said...

Not a bad idea to erect a monument where all former residents could go and mourn their former coexistence.

Like with the former Iron Curtain one could set up a stand and sell them, and their children and their childrens children small particles of their old neighbourhood (a certificate included?)

yudit said...

A ghost presumably is something left after someone's death.
A tired bride, yes, a dead bride ("urs elbahar"? No. And it's not mere semantics either.
Housing improvement is wonderful, housing improvement for some while kicking out the others either to slums or out on the street is a matter of social justice, or rahter, the lack thereof.

Lirun said...

i believe i wrote "yaffo is a ghost re-emerging into the living"

i dont think i wrote dead..

this is nothing but semantics..

it even sure why this is the focus..

reminds me of the one voice conference i went to a few months back.. one ladyrefused to sign a petition because it said

"מה אתה מוכן לעשות לסיים את הסיכסוך" rather than "מה את..."

anyway have a good week..

ps whats going on with the green forum.. they never got in touch with me :(

yudit said...

Lirun, i tried to get your mail a while ago, to send you an invitation to last weeks meeting

Lirun said...

ive sent it to you both by blog and email