Tuesday, June 24

Jungle fever

Last friday a neighbourhood committee was formed in Saknet AlArabi, or, as this neighbourhood is known in Jaffa, "the Jungle". No, not my name, that's what everybody calls it, it implying what perhaps should be known as Israel's public worst housing estate. The official address is "Shem Hagdolim Street. I guess "HaGdolim" refers to the biggest drug dealers (for those not able to read Hebrew, the street name means "the name of the great") .

The neighbourhood (most of it is public housing owned by "Halamish") is plagued by great poverty (read: not enough food on the table in many homes) , very high crime rates, much violence, few kids complete school, drugs all around. A place with very little hope. It's also filthy beyond description and dangerous: All of the estate shares two open garbage containers which tend to overflow. The wind and the stray cats and rats do the rest. The sewage flows freely in some areas. There is no light in the staircases and corridors and the stairs have no bannisters in most cases. There are no post-boxes. The gaz balloons stand here and there, unprotected, while the central gaz supply has become unsafe, yet its cover is used by the jungle's small children as "monkey-bars" for lack of anything else close by. The electricity wires are exposed in many of the staircases, which, given the darkness and the running sewage (whenever you see green weeds and grass growing somewhere in that desperate place, make sure you watch your step, that's where the sewage runs through) in many of the buildings is simply an accident waiting to happen.
Most of the neighbourhood's families have been disconnected from the central gaz company, as they cannot afford the very high bills. Instead they made their own, unsafe, gaz connection with private gaz cannisters standing and laying about here and there, waiting for an accident to happen.
This is the kind of area in which the police only enter in big groups with a helicopter flying above.

Some time ago the youth club was closed. Less time ago the only youth leader was fired. Maintenance of both the public and private space is non existent. In public housing estates that responsibility is shared by the housing company and the municipality. But they don't care. they haven't cared for many years in fact.
Most of the people living there were robbed of their original homes in Ajami and Jabaliya and offered a flat in the complex as a solution to their housing problem. There is much anger and frustration, when people living in the Jungle see what has become of the homes they were kicked out from. These have been turned into villas for the very wealthy and sold for much money while they, the original owners got stuck in a slum beyond description.

The jungle has become a place of despair from which it is almost impossible to escape.
Yet there is also solidarity and strength. And those led to the establishment of a neighbourhood committee being establishment. True, a few less successful attempts have been made before, but this time it feels and looks different. People, women and men from all buildings, are focused and with the help of activists and lawyer Rasha Asaf the first steps were undertaken.

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Anonymous said...

This has been the result of socialism whenever it has been tried.

And yeah, government housing is a form of socialism.

When people own their own property they take pride in it and try to maintain it. Moreover it makes them more self sufficient overall.

But when people live in government housing they get into the mindset that only government can save them and when government starts to fail them (as government often does) then they fall into hopelessness.

Same thing happened in Katrina. The people who expected the government to do something to evacuate them died, whereas those who took upon themselves the responsibility of their own evacuation made it out in plenty of time.

Socialism destroys the human spirit. And that physically manifests itself by among other things in the poor state you frequently see government owned housing.

Lirun said...
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yudit said...

Hi Lirun,
thanks, once in a while we agree on something :)

Lirun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.