Monday, October 13

Rightwing extremists endangering the peace in Jaffa as well

Some weeks ago a "hesder" yeshiva (Jewish religious academy) was opened in Ajami. An old synagogue that had been standing standing unused and boarded up for many years, at the end of Toulouse Street, is its center and flats in the area have been bought or rented, financed (so the rumour goes) by Moskowitz, for its students.
I have absolutely nothing against yeshivot, and very much respect religion, of any kind. As long as it is not abused for political and nationalist purposes, of any kind.
I also believe that people should be able to live where they want, as long as it is not at the cost of their neighbours, who, in this case, happened to be there way before them.

Ajami was constructed by "tribal" Muslim families at the onset of the 20th century, when Jaffa's old city was becoming too cramped. It's city walls had been taken down. And the wealthier people of al communities moved out to start new "garden" neighbourhoods in the surrounding areas.
They tended to do so on lands previously owned by their families and used for growing grapes, grain or oranges etc. , on which they constructed homes for the family, its sons and their families. As the new neighborhoods were family oriented (in the tribal sense of that word). thus neighborhoods were formed alongside tribal and religious lines, including Jewish garden neighborhoods: What is now Neve Zedek, was initially a Jaffa "garden neighborhood" for Jaffa's Jewish population. The wealthy Chelouche family, who had been living in Jaffa since the early 19th century, moved there amongst others.

In 1948 the very large majority of Jaffa's Palestinian population had been forced out (or killed) and the former cultural center of Palestine. the "Bride of the Sea, as Jaffa was known, had become a mere shadow of its former self.
Only about 3000 Palestinans had been left. Ajami was encircled by a barbed wire fence and became a prison camp for these 3000.
Many of Ajami's majestic homes stood empty and crmubling down, when large waves of immigrants started to arrive. They moved into Ajami and shared the homes with the 3000 already living there.
Often in a home which had previously housed one wealthy family, now each room housed a family and all shared the kitchen and the bathroom.
Many people remember this period not with bad feelings. Everyone was dirt poor, both the Arab families and the Jewish ones. But when women have to share the kitchen and the kids play together, relationships are formed. Friendly ones.
Many of Jaffa's women, who were girls at the time, told me about these relations. How they felt comfortable falling asleep in the room of the neighbouring mummy when back from school, how all kids ate at each others' homes, how the boys held long going football matches or went fishing and swimming together. The mothers shared whatever, because that was the natural thing to do.
Yes , i am aware of the naqbe, the Palestinian catastrophe and do not try to make "light" of it. I realize this was a situation forced upon the Palestinian families and they had no choice in having to share their homes with the newcomers. Not a simple or pleasant situation. But reality and Jaffa's women were stronger than that.

Ajami had become a slum, for poor people. The houses were in a terrible condition and were not repaired by the "Israel land administration" who had overtaken ownership and forced people to sign rental contracts, often for their homes they had previously owned. They knew how to take the rent, but not how to do maintenance.
The idea was to let Ajami deteriorate and then break down everything and replace it with apartment buildings of the well-known "shikun" (a typical Israeli public housing style) type.
Thus, it was impossible for the inhabitats to maintain the homes, because there was no "municipal building plan" for Ajami and therefore it was impossible to get any kind of legal building permit, as these are related to the official building plan, which, as previously stated, did not exist. A logic worth of Kafka, if you consider it "non intentional". Or of Mephisto, because, i think, it was VERY much intended.
Over three thousand homes were destroyed, their rubble thrown onto Ajami's beach to form what we call "the "Garbage Hill", the grave of Ajami's naqbe.

Many of the Jewish families had been offered housing in newly contructed public housing in Yafo Gimmel and Daled, or in nearby Bat Yam and further away Rishon leZion.
Thus, Ajami became a predominantly (about 80%) Muslim neighbourhood once more. Poor and neglected. A slum no one cared about.
A few Jewish families stayed there, some artists and young people moved in as they were either too poor to live elsewhere in Tel Aviv or saw the beauty and charm underneath the thick layer of grime and fell in love with Ajami. Ajami's synagogues fell into disuse and were boarded up. There was no minyan and no need for them any longer. Most of the Jewish families living in today's Ajami are not religious. Some are traditional.

Today's Ajami has a small Jewish community, about 20% of the population. Some are the ultra-rich newcomers, living in their big villas. Every morning they get into their gaz slurping 4 wheel monsters for the arduous trip to their work in Tel Aviv. They do not really live in Ajami, only their fortified home exist in Jaffa's geographical space. They are not part of our community, except for, perhaps, buying their wines and meat at one of the Hinawi stores of great quality.

Jaffa's school system is not good (understatement of the century), unless you can afford to go private (very expensive) or are accepted into one of the two selective Jewish schools, "the open democratic school" or the "nature school". And to get into those schools, the parents need to talk the talk and walk the walk. In addition they cost a lot of money, although they are officially "public" schools, therefore should be free. They are not. They are good schools with lots of special programs and great teachers. And the parents pay for it, a lot.
Thus these schools are colored; very "white 'n wealthy". If you do not belng, it's not easy to get your kids in. The other kids are forced into the "other schools", which are indeed "other".
The educational system serves the formation of problematic social strata and reinforces the distribution of wealth. That's for Jaffa's Jewish children.

For the Arab children there exist excellent private (Freres [French Jesuits], Tabitha [Church of Scotland], Terra Santa [Italian nuns] or Greek Orothodox) schools. As they are private they cost a lot of money, so are open only to few.

The rest of the kids have to go to the horrid, third rate public schools. Only some make it to the better, but selective, Ajial school or to the newly created Arab Democratic School, which has not yet been authorised and experiencing serious problems.

The implications of the built-in discrmination are obvious, hard and unfair.

For Jewish parents if your children are not accepted into the two good schools (or if you cannot afford it) you can move elsewhere. And some do. Jewish Friends of mine left Jaffa because they could not afford the good schools and preferred not to send their kids to the lousy public ones. They were able to.
For Arab Parents there is no alternative, as they cannot move int0 Tel Aviv etc.. Thus, the education system also "served" (and still does so) as a strong devider and definer of who lives where.

So why am i not happy these "Hesder Yeshiva"people moved in? After all it's "good" when educational establishments move into the neighborhood, no?
NO, because they are not a naive well-meaning "educational establishment" serving the local population, who have absolutely no need for their "services". If their intentions had been those of the local Jewish community, they would have moved not into Ajami, but into nearby Jaffa Gimmel or Daled neighbourhoods, where there are large traditional and religious Jewish communities, mostly from Boukharian background. Many of them recent migrants with religious or traditional background and who can do with assistance and help getting succesfully absobed nto Israeli soceity. there, the Hesder guys would have been truly answering a need.

The hesder guys came here as colonialists would. They have no wish to be part of the local community, but rather to replace it. The synagogues in the area had stayed boarded up for many years, because those who needed their services had left and the Jews who stayed behind are not religious. At most they would open up the synagogue for the "High Holidays" and close it afterwards, for a lack of need.
They come here to provoke, to cause unrest. And it is easy to do that. Very little is needed to create that an Accre of situation in Jaffa. They do not wish for peaceful coexistence and cooperation, but to replace the local Muslim population.
It is also possible to prevent violence just around the corner. Having a zionist colonialist extremist type establishment (that serves no exisiting religious Jewish community, as they claim) in the middle of a predominantly Muslim neighborhood is a cause for trouble, rather than furthering coexistence.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

I've just discovered you. Congratulations for your blog.
I like reading your posts, since my best memories of my childhood and adolescence are from Adjami in Yafo , although I am not israeli, not jewish nor arab. Just Greek, who happened to learn hebrew and family friends who were at that time Olim Khadashim from the States and the UK were staying on Rav Dov Mimezrits Str.
I thank you for this blog.
I have added your blog on my blog-list , in my greek blog

Plus , check out my cinematographic blog, which is 100% in english