Saturday, May 24

The only democ.... oops

Israel likes to call itself "the only true democracy in the Middle East" and in comparison to some of our neighbours Israeli media indeed are relatively free and elections relatively democratic. But everything is relative.
Today Norman Finkelstein was refused entry to Israel (in order to travel onwards to the occupied territories) and deported.
So much for our democracy. I don't necessarily agree with everything Norman Finkelstein has to say. And perhaps i would use different wordings.
But a true democracy should not be scared of criticism. A true democracy should welcome political discourse.

But then i guess Israel isn't really a true democracy.

Friday, May 23

Computer theft from the Women's Court

Last night thieves broke into the Jaffa "Women's Court" on Yefet Street and stole all computers and other hardware as well as the router.
Honesty demands that i divulge working at the Court.
The Court serves Jaffa's (and south Tel Aviv & Bat Yam) young women and teenage girls. The small computer room serves educational and social purposes. Another computer served the staff and contains sensitive materials.

Wednesday, May 21

Chinese school construction and in Israel?

Reading about the horror of collapsing school buildings in China i cannot but wonder; and what about the construction quality of the schools in Jaffa? In all of the country?
Israel is in an earthquake zone, close to the African Syrian fault line. Serious earthquakes have hit the country in the past and the question is not IF there will be a serious earthquake in Israel, but WHEN.

The next question should be and what about the construction level and safety of our public buildings? Our schools, hospitals, theatres, prisons etc. And what about our private homes? Who is responsible?

I recall reading scary reports presented by the Technion and other official agencies, about the high damage percentage we would suffer when the "big one" will hit.
I recall these reports spoke about a large percentage of homes and public buildings that might not withstand the event and crumble.

Was anything done? How do you know the quality of the building you live in? Work in, visit? When you live in public housing or a privately rented flat (like yours truly), how can you know how safe it is? Is it safe? And who is responsible for it? Some bribe taking politician? The inventor of "palkal" floors (of Versailles' wedding hall fame)? You and me? The municipality?

These things always and only happen "elsewhere", don't they?

Tuesday, May 20

Hanna's family has fallen apart

Yesterday they were evicted, Hanna and her eight young children.
As they have nowhere to go, the children were all sent to different homes. The family has basically disintegrated. Hanna is not able to rent even a small flat with the rent subsidy she receives. So the kids no longer have that very basic thing: a family, a home.

Evicting a family is an act of extreme violence, in the name of "justice". A very warped sense of justice of course; a burocratic justice.

If anyone knows about a CHEAP rental flat in Jaffa or Bat Yam, please contact me immediately, please.

Monday, May 19

Something so wrong

There are things so obviously wrong, i have few words for them.
Surely throwing out a family with 8 young kids is wrong, period.
Perhaps it is completely legal in the sense of the dry written law, all done "according to procedure", but when this very poor family has no where to go, that's unjust. And Hanna and her 8 children have nowhere to go, no alternative they can afford.

When social workers say "we have no solution ,she should find something herself, we cannot help her, that is unjust.

And i feel deeply ashamed, helpless.

Hana Nadi & her 8 kids were kicked out onto the streets

They came quietly, armed police, gorillas and movers as well as Halamish representatives and kicked her out.
It went all very quickly, Hana didn't have a card in her phone so she couldn't calll me.
I passed by her home by chance when i saw the police cars and mover's van.

Eight children and their mum will sleep out in the streets today.

I called social services and a lawyer, but it does not seem as if anyone has a solution.
We searched for rental flats on the internet, but Hanna cannot afford the very high prices.

Her children are angry, the little girls crying.

Social justice? there ain't such a thing, not in Jaffa.

Thursday, May 15

Andromeda round nr.... i lost the count

The Jaffa's Andromeda Compound's developers want to add more and even higher buildings and are actively demanding building permits to do so, as was declared during the local building council meeting this Wednesday at the Tel Aviv municipality (also attended by Jaffa activists, reps from "Bimkom", lawyer Hisham Shbeita, the spokesperson of the Society for the Protection of Nature's southern city forum and yours truly).

Parts of Jaffa undergo a speedy gentrification process at the cost of the local, mostly Palestinian, population who are being forced out of their beloved city. They stand no chance against the combined forces of big money and the municipality, to whom such principles as affordable housing and distributive justice, community oriented planning and housing rights for all are foreign concepts.

Money buys orientalism and fake romance with, admittedly, a lovely view of Jaffa's ancient harbour and the Mediterranean sea. I have no problem with that, as long as it's not at the cost of others. If the rich and wealthy want to live in Disneyland-like kitsch, that's their own right. As long as the local community doesn't have to pay for their monstrosity.

The Andromeda closed compound was constructed on lands belonging to Jaffa's orthodox Christian Palestinian community. There are those who think the land changed hands in a rather illegal manner. It might be true, but then, it might not. There have been and perhaps still are police investigations into the matter, some of the Greek orthodox community leaders have left the country.

The land was supposed to serve the community's goals, i wonder if the money it brought in served the community or went into other pockets. Honestly, i have no way of knowing the details, but that's the story on the street.

What is certain, however, that the compound poses problems to the original Jaffa community on many levels.
As a closed compound (it was supposed to be open to the public, but in spite of court orders, it still is NOT) it's a stranger to Jaffa, an alien in our midst. The prices are such that it is available only to the very wealthy. Not to local people, who are banned from entering. "Security" they say.

From some of the compound's workers (unnamed for obvious reasons) i learned that one of Israel's crime families houses some of its "employees" in the compound, so i very much doubt the security claim. Or rather, i find it more than a little amusing.

The massive building mass has completely obliterated the view from Yefet street (EL Hilwe or Ajami street, as it was called in the past) towards the harbor and the sea.
The compound's high buildings, which were supposed to blend in with their surroundings, stick out as a large heavy mass above the lovely buildings of Ajami and Jaffa's harbour. Orientalist in style, they belong neither here nor there. Nor do they blend in with the French hospital compound and the church "next door".

The public buildings, for the good of the community, labelled "cultural" and "educational" have not been constructed up to this day. They were conditions of the original building permit. The developers now want to change "cultural" into "religious" and construct a synagogue. I really have nothing against a synagogue, and if they wish to construct one, sure, go ahead, but NOT instead of the cultural or educational building "for the good of the community", as the original permit demands.

Moreover, the Greek Orthodox school was supposed to have access, according to the original permit. This demand has not been met either.

When faced with these demands, the developers say they will answer them, but only after all the other construction has been completed. We know that trick. In the mean time the existing buildings have been put to use and now? They can always "not finish something" and therefore justify not doing anything for the community.

Well, now the developers have filed plans for even MORE construction.

Now the developers are demanding additional building rights for several more and even higher buildings.
The original design had a sort of "sloping" skyline, with a high point in the middle and lower buildings around it with rooftops on varying heights, sloping downwards to blend in with the skyline of the lower buildings around.
The new concept, if constructed, will completely mess up (there is no other word for it) the lovely Old Jaffa skyline from ALL directions.

Thus, we are faced with not only a serious social justice problem created by a closed compound, but also with a cultural one. Israel has a long and ugly history of destroying landmarks. If the new program will be authorised, the Jaffa skyline will be yet another victim to money destroying history and culture.

An even weirder part is that the developers now want to construct a commercial colonnade (on the part of the compound facing Yefet street) and present this as a service to the public as "building for the community". Right, they want to make lots of money on renting out commercial property as a service to the community. Allow me to laugh.

The representative of the inhabitants and flat owners at the compound did not agree to the added buildings construction permit request as they feel it will lower their quality of life as well as the value of their expensive property. They feel the original developers (the company switched hands over time) sold them lies in many ways, and i guess they truly did not get what they had hoped to get: peace and quiet in luxury surroundings nicely closed off from where they are actually located, slummy, poor Palestinian Jaffa.
Although luxurious, the compound is actually densely populated with many big building blocs grouped closely together separated by narrow food paths. Very much unlike the traditional building style of near by Ajami. Weirdly enough, in that sense (density) it is much more like the ugly social housing compounds of Jaffa Gimmel and Daled.

The illustrative image shows part of the Andromeda compound sticking out above what once was part of the "Maronite" neighbourhood

Tuesday, May 13

No news is good news, sometimes

So far Hanna Nadi and her kids are still at home and all appears to be quiet.

I just hope the police will not surprise them (& us) at night

And in the mean time, the father was subjected to police brutality

Hanna Nadi and her 8 young children stand to be evicted into the streets from the small "Halamish" owned flat they squatted in. So far Hanna has not been able to find another flat (big enough to house her and her kids) she can afford. The police have informed her she will be evicted, probably today.

We're trying to assist her, but in the mean time the father of her children was arrested yesterday afternoon, because of debts. The father, in his fifties and very ill, is dependent on social security as his disease prevents him from working.
As a result he cannot take care of his children either.

Over time, unable to meet municipal and other payments, he made a debt of about 5000 NIS.

The repossession people came after him accompanied by the police, and somehow a fight erupted. The father was wounded; 3 broken ribs and a head wound. Both hands and feet shackled, the father was taken to nearby Wolfson hospital, where he received stitches to his head and treatment (being shackled throughout the medical procedures) and then taken to the Abu Kabir jail.

Yes, this is an enlightened country...

Monday, May 12

Hanna Nadi and her 8 children - Continuing the fight

Some weeks ago Hanna and her 8 young children were kicked out of the small flat they lived in. After a few days in a neighbour's house, she squatted the flat she was evicted from, she had no other choice. It was either the streets or back to the old, windowless, flat.

Halamish, the housing company, filed a criminal complaint against her and last week Hanna was questioned by the police. I accompanied her to the police station and played with her 2 youngest daughters, while a police officer questioned her. From his remarks it was obvious he disliked this part of his job, and felt quite sympathetic towards Hanna, but like everyone else, unable to solve her problem. Hanna has little money and 8 kids. She simply cannot afford to rent a place even WITH rent subsidy, yet there are no public flats available, in spite of her eligibility.

That means the streets with her 8 young daughters. There is a long list of eligible people waiting for public housing, but no flats have been constructed in Tel Aviv nor Jaffa over the last 10 years.

Today we learned the police will probably come to evict her tomorrow. We need your help tomorrow.

The address is Shem HaGdolim 6, Jaffa.

Hanna really needs your HELP. But it is not only about Hanna, it's about the right to a roof above our heads for all of us, the right to live, to have a home.

Friday, May 2

Women's Bazaar in Jaffa this saturday

"Arus El Bahar", Bride of the Sea in Arabic, is a local women's organization started by Safa Younes about one year ago.
Honesty demands that i divulge doing some voluntary work at Arus El Bahar.

Arus ElBahar's women are organizing a bazaar this Saturday (May 3rd) between 11.00 - 17.00 in "Gan HaShanyaim", the little park on Yefet Street.
Jewellery, bags, crafts products, clothes, food, "shmontzes" (is there a word in English for this?) made by the women will be for sale .
Many of Arus ElBahar's women come from traditional Palestinian families and it will be a first time event for many of them, selling their own products.

Everyone is welcome.