Yafo Gimmel is a mixed and by all standards rather slummy neighbourhood: Palestinian families and poorer Jewish ones (those who can afford it, move out) share dreary apartment blocks, many of them owned by the "Halamish" public housing company. Over the last few years, recent immigrants from Ethiopia have been housed in this very weak place.
The original inhabitants for whom the neighbourhood was constructed were people mostly form Bulgaria and Morocco who were living under harsh and cramped conditions in pre-gentrification Ajami.
They were happy to move out to the new blocks, where they finally had their own bathroom and kitchen (previously they had to share those with several other families).
But the blocks proved to be problematic. Shoddy construction, bad insulation, sheer size and Halamish's poor repair and maintenance standards soon turned the area into a slum.
And right in the middle of that slum there is the "Dake" orange grove, which, in spite of its romantic name grows few oranges: another "favela" like area inhabited by the Dake family, who live thereunder terrible conditions of poverty and neglect, as the municipality refuses to create a "housing plan" for the area and as a result it is impossible to undertake legal construction on the land the family has been owning for centuries. There is no good sewage system and electricity hook up is somewhat, how shall i say it, "primitive". There is much poverty and neglect in all of the area. And where there is poverty, there is crime, mostly drugs related in this case. And violence. And youth gangs of alienated kids who have lost all hope.
Those who can afford it, run away, those who still live there, mostly wish they will be able to run away, one day, perhaps. A mixture of elderly, recent and less recent migrants from Ethiopia and the Ex-Soviet Union, Palestinian families and as of late, ultra right wing yeshiva students, who believe the real struggle is no longer in the West Bank, but in the mixed cities, where they come to "strengthen the Jewish Community" and "to protect it against -God forbid- mixed marriages". Reality being that there are very few of those (less than 10 a year) doesn't bother them in their rhetoric, it sounds "good" and is easy to use when you want to create tension.
And tension exists.
"The Red Field" used to be a neglected football field used for many activities, but football wasn't one of those. Over the last year or so, the field has been beautifully renovated into an open, public sports center with basket ball courts, an out-door gym, table tennis and of course a football field.
After tension arose between the poor kids of next door "Dake" and the housing estates' kids a community worker and a multi-ethnic group of mothers started to meet and try to undertake joint positive activities. Sport and games are a good way of letting off steam and get to know each other. And it seems to be working. Something good appears to be going on in the "Red Field" as it is still known. The municipality is doing something right here.
So they selected the Red Field as the location for the "Mimouna Party". For those unfamiliar, Mimouna originates in Morocco, when, on the end of the last day of Passover the Muslim neighbours would bring their Jewish neighbours the first leavened baked goods which had been forbidden during Passover. Moufleta and colorful marzipan-like sweets are traditional. Over time, in Israel, it was turned into another popular festival of neighbors of all ethnic backgrounds, visiting neighbors and eating lots of the traditional sweets, while listening to music and dancing.
What also has become traditional, is the political ride taken by Israel's politicians who tend to visit the various public festival locations and yesterday's Jaffa version was no different. Mayor Ron Huldai, Gilad Peled (who returned to manage the Mishlama) and others, as well as the distincly Ashkenazi rabi of the yeshiva all spoke their words of unity among the Jews, most of them convienently forgetting the Palestinian presence. The talk was of a "unified city of Tel Aviv, which exists 100 years (right in Jaffa, remember?).
It was rather cold yesterday evening, so most people had dressed warmly, some over or under their traditional Moroccan dress, making a few of them looking litke glitzy stuffed bears. The guests of honour, among them muniipal coalition members Ahmad Mashrawi and Maytal Lehavi as well as ex-mk Nadia Hilou, were sitting in a traditional and very pretty Morocan tent colorfully decorated with cushions and small tables full of goodies, while the children of the hoi polloy had to wait in the cold to receive their freshly made Moufleta.
The musical theme was of the mostly "Anu Banu Artza" type of theme, with the occasional Morocan song thrown in for political correctness.
The area was guarded by border police and the little boys from Dake, who are loud and active (i am talking about 8-10 year old children) were not let in. They "might disturb the peace".