Friday, December 28

Another murder attempt in Jaffa, about 30 minutes ago

A short burst of machine gun fire. A dog started barking. Everyone ran outside.
Several gun shot holes in the car. The youngest Sakhafi boy, they say.
I don't know his medical condition, but the condition of the car leaves very little to guess.
Jaffa.... Yet another victim of the ongoing violence

Thursday, December 27

The "Jaffa Conference"

Today the "Jaffa Conference" will open at Jaffa's Arab Jewish Community Center, aka our local matnas.
There isn't a real connection between Jaffa and the conference's name, apart from the fact that it takes place in Jaffa. there is almost nothing on the program that has to do anything with Jaffa.
This year's topic is "mixed cities". Right, mixed cities. So how come there was nothing in the original program about what is happening in Jaffa? In the end, under pressure, the organizers agreed to have Sami Bukhari from the popular committee against home demolitions participate in one of the panels. In the light of what happened this week in Kfar shalem, our future looks bleak and scary.
What do they mean when they say "mixed city"? Is that a phase from pre 1948, pre Naqbe Palestinian Jaffa to an all Jewish Jaffa, the future "dream" of the developers and real estate creeps?

Or is it something else?

Tuesday, December 25

And in the mean time in Kfar Shalem.... 30 homeless families

Last the night the police arrested the men from Kfar Shalem. I never knew that preventive arrest was legal here. After all, they had (not) yet done a thing. So much for democracy. I alsways thought arrests could only be made after one has been declared a suspect of a crime actually committed!. But i suppose the police wanted to make certain their job would be easy today. After all, in the past when they came to carry out an eviction order, they killed one of the young men, who had climbed on the roof of his home, in order to prevent its destruction. The men was shot by the police. Point blank. I call it murder.
So they arrested the men. To make today's work easier i suppose.

Kfar Shalem is located in today's south Tel Aviv on the ruins of a Palestinian village, Kufr Salame. Kufr Salame was left in 1948 by its original inhabitants who were extradited. The naqbe, the catastrophe.

In the late forties - early fifties poor migrants were told to go there and live in the houses that stood empty. They settled in the houses, planted gardens , had children and slowly Kfar Shalem as it was now called, turned into a neighbourhood. A poor one, but a lively and happy one.

Then real estate developers became interested and, after a long, fruitless legal struggle, the people were ordered to move out. The land had been bought and they should find themselves somewhere else to live.

This morning the bulldozers arrived and thirty families, many with young children, became homeless.

I'm sure Ron the Ratty One is happy!
My heart is with the families of Kfar Shalem.

Saturday, December 22

Carnival censorship, "We must be cheerful, mustn't we?"

Yefet street is pretty much packed. A few local people from Jaffa, the majority from elsewhere, parents, children. The weather 's nice. "Gan HaShenaym" is packed. Kids sit on the grass, watching a theatre performance. The shelter normally operated by Sedaka Reut, a Palestinian Jewish youth movement who use it as a music studio for Jaffa's children, has been turned into a "hapak" the Hebrew acronym for "heder pikud kidmi", the front-line war room, all nicely along the militarized lines of Israel's civil society. Language is a give away. Police men and women run around. There are a few border police men as well and of course loads of employees from private guard companies.

Along Yefet there are stalls on both sides, selling "pitchifkes", small, gaudy and too expensive. The stalls belong to people from elsewhere. Except for one or two, run by stores along the way, none are local. The restaurants are packed. At least they are doing good business.
We didn't want to ruin the festivities for our local business women and men, so decided to put up small posters along the way, reminding the visitors of approaching home destructions in Jaffa. The maps are similar to those handed out by the municipality, only instead of dots showing the locations of the participating restaurants, we put little bulldozers.
Someone took the posters down, systematically. One by one. Only in a few cases, they didn't do their job in a thorough manner. The maps, showing little bulldozers where houses are about to be demolished have been torn down, but not entirely.
We must be cheerful after all; Ron Huldai, the mayor, wishes us all a happy holiday.

So what if 496 families will soon be homeless? Be Happy!!

Friday, December 21

Carnival, festival or what?

Tomorrow, between 9.30 - 18.00 there is suppsed to be a carnival in Jaffa. In Ajami, to be precise, on Yefet (Hilwe) Street.
In Haifa they have the festival of festivals in Wadi Nisnas, celebrating Eid elAdha, Hanukkah and Christmas. The Tel Aviv municipality apparently thought that what's good for Haifa, is good also for Jaffa, and decided to have a street party. Especially with municipal elections coming closer, Ron Huldai, the major, needs to show he means well, after all, he latest remarks about sustainable housing were less than convincing for Jaffa's less affluent people.
So we're gonna get a party, organised by the municipality.

Quite truthfully, i like parties. And street-parties are even better. Besides, Ajami's businesses can do with some additional income.
But there is something very cynical about this one.
Faced with 496 eviction and demolition orders, we have little reason to be happy in Jaffa. And the municipality is behind much of this. It's part of their policy.

So we'll let the visitors know, we'll use this opportunity to tell them about what is really happening in Jaffa, so they'll look beyond the Christmas trees and children's drawings gracing the streets of Ajami. I hope the visitors will receive at least some understanding of what is truly happening here.

Thursday, December 6

Bread & Tears

Last night i went to buy few things at my local grocery store (yes, in Jaffa they're open most of the night as well). I was chatting with Hussein, the owner.
Hussein only works the night shift now. He spends his days working in a soup kitchen for the poor. Husseins grocery was robbed a few times over the last few years, so Hussein got himself a gun. Someone must have ratted. The police came, found the gun and the court sent Hussein to a few months of "volunteering in the community", instead of a prison sentence.
A woman in her fifties came to pay for a bag of milk and a "standard" bread (lehem ahid). When she heard the price, she was certain there Hussein had a mistake, but no, now that the price of standard bread is no longer controlled, the price has gone up to 6 NIS.
I asked Hussein, as i thought the price of standard bread was still controlled. "No, they demand much more now, i don't make money on it", he answered.
The woman asked if she could buy half a bread. The Ministry of Health doesn't allow that for some reason or other, hygiene apparently. She asked for the price of the bread she was holding close once more. "Six shekel", Hussein said. She put back the bread. "I don't have enough money", she said, "how can they, six shekel for a bread." She paid for the milk and then started crying. Hussein added the bread to her bag and told her to go (Hussein's is like that, he's never refused when i asked for his assistance for this or that family i came across, i guess his grocery store makes money because of his wife and daughter who run it during the daytime hours). The woman left, a bag of bread and milk kept close, into the cold night.

Wednesday, December 5

Horace of the Fleas

It's located at the end (or the beginning) of Jaffa's fleamarket area in an old building on 34 "Oley Zion" street.
The renovation of the place is stunning. A small inner courtyard with a little fountain is perfect for a morning coffee, arriving with a nice, tiny, spicy made-on-the-premises-cookie.
The iron work along the stairs is lovely and so is the furniture, the crockery, more or less everything in the place.
But cafes are about drink and food. After all, some of Tel Aviv's more stylish and fashionable places are gorgeous. It's their food and the service that leave much to be wanted. Which make me run away never to return. Horace is different, besides being in Jaffa.

Horace is in a class of its own. Which is why i fee like keeping quiet about it. So not too many people will find out and spoil the fun. But then, this blog has a select group of readers ( as in small) and i'll share it with them, with you, as a small Hanuka/Eid ElAdha/ Christmas gift.

Jaffa has a great new cafe to visit:"Horace". Not only when there is no place at Pua's. It's worth while a special trip, e.g. when you're in the mood to indulge yourself.
Although there isn't much choice for a vegetarian like myself, the small selection is wonderful and of excellent quality as well as nicely served. And yes, i appreciate beautiful plates. Snob or not? I'm not a food critic and totally unable to describe the great tasting salad i had in words.

And NO i'm not being paid for this small article. I simply fell in love with the place, its food and especially the small courtyard. And i like sharing good things with a few friends.
So whoever lives in Jaffa or the close surroundings...

Eid elAdha (as if) by Charles Dickens

Sineal* is in debt. She was arrested yesterday night. Why?
Well, she has debts and she cannot pay them.
Sineal has 10 children. Eight are still at home. The youngest is in kindergarden. Sineal worked as a cleaner until her hands simply gave up one day. She suffered from excruciating pains and became incapable of lifting even light objects. Two complicated hand operations later she became unable to work and therefore applied for social security disability. Ofcourse she didn't have private insurance. That's a luxury not extended to simple workers.
Her disability money-claim has not yet gone through, burocracy, as usual.
In the mean time she started receiving basic welfare. For some reason only 500 NIS a month (that's less than 200$), but with her child-allowance she somehow managed to survive.
Then all of a sudden the social insurance institute stopped paying her at all. The case is pending in court. It may take many months until things will clear up.
She and her 8 kids stuck without money. The electricity was cut off 2 weeks ago. The neighbors assist her with a small cable from their home, so she has some light at least.
Yesterday night the police came and arrested her for debts. The youngest children cried but no one really cared very much. The older girls cried and tried to get help.
With the aid of a lawyer, Sineale managed to go back home today. For the time being. She's been given 30 days to take care of her debts. If not, she will be arrested again.
The judge, a woman, was actually friendly and somewhat understanding. But the law is the law. and debts need to be paid.
I wonder why that doesn't apply to the social security institute. Why don't they pay their debt to Sineal? She always paid them while she could still work.
I have no idea how Sineal will be able to take care of her debts in 30 days. She doesn't have the money to buy food for her large family and herself.
Soon it will be Eid elAdha. But not for Sineal. Neither for her children.
*Sineal is not her real name. The story is true.

Monday, December 3

Ajami's Welfare Office moving even further

Yesterday i wrote about the bad office conditions of Jaffa's welfare workers (their office is located in a petrol station). They were supposed to move back to their old office.
I support the social workers in this case. Their conditions WERE horrid. But the old building (which was designed for its purpose, a welfare office, has become dilapidated in the few months it stood empty.
So in reality they will move this week to the Yafo Daled quarter, Rubinstein Street. They think they will not have telephones, but only "mirs" cellphones.

That may sound trivial, but in reality it will make them even less available to Ajami's elderly, handicapped and large families. there is no direct public transport to Yafo Daled form Ajami and it is rather far to walk for the elderly or small children.
Many of the poor have no phone or a prepaid-card cell phone on which they often can only receive calls. Calling "mirs" is expensive. In all of Ajami there is one working public phone. And it is on Yefet.
So the welfare office will be even less available to Ajami's most needy of its services.

Sunday, December 2

Ajami's welfare office moving out of Ajami

Jaffa has 2 municipal welfare offices, the main one located on Jerusalem boulevard in what once was Jaffa's municipality building (prior to 1948), the other one, serving the Ajami area, in the "Talal" building on Yefet Street.

The building, also housing Jaffa's Sharia (Islamic) court and the "Mishlama", our local governance (not my word, that's what they call themselves in English) is a drab office building constructed on top of a petrol station.
The conditions in the building are far from satisfying: crowded, with little privacy and terrible air-conditioning, leading to petrol fumes in many of the rooms facing the street. No doubt unhealthy for both the employees and their clients). The rooms of the management face the sea (a lovely view, by the way, also of some of Jaffa's graveyards). I agree with the employees the building is simply not fitting. Indeed. a poor building for a poor service.
The municipality intends to send the employees in the course of this week to various municipal offices. The previous building (in nice 2-floor structure with a wonderful inner courtyard, planned for its function as welfare office) will be renovated at a cost of some 4.3 million $.
And Ajami's residents in need of the office's services? Well, they'll have to walk all the way to Jerusalem Boulevard (Nouzha) or take 2 buses, as there is no direct bus line connecting the two areas. Especially women with young children and the elderly (the majority of the office's clients) will have a hard time getting there.
There must be a better alternative. In Ajami.
It appears the municipality's economic interests are top of the list, rather than serving Jaffa's community's needs. What else is new?