Tuesday, June 30

filthy justice

Quite close to my home lives a major drug dealer. He has his stash hidden away in the 'hood, well away from his home, but closeby enough to keep an eye on it. Whenever the police carry out a search in his home, they come up with nothing.
His large stash is usually kept in a pirate garbage dump, used by those too lazy to walk to the, not so nearby, garbage container.
Yesterday during the early hours of the day the municipality guys came and cleaned the area. Completely, totally, absolutely. No more rubbish pile and no more stash.
The guy got up late, as usual, and has been screaming since at everybody in the area. His wife crying, 60.000 NIS worth of stock gone. "Why didn't we call them, when the cleaners came?" Yeah right.

Tuesday, June 23

Community involvement at the Jaffa Siksik mosque

The Siksik mosque is being renovated by the Jaffa community, in order to safeguard it as a place of prayer. It's not clear how the Keter Plastic factory, apparently at some point in the 1960-ies, managed to take over a large part of the Siksik khan and mosque, but that's what happened. They had little regard for the place and over time turned it into... a mess of partially destroyed ancient walls, new constructions out of asbestos and flimsy wooden platforms. Some of the old vaulted rooms with thick sturdy walls still stand. A 1964 report by the ministry of religion describes the building as being sound and still in use as a mosque.
The Keter founders appear to donate to the Israeli opera, culture lovers, so to say. Yet they had little regard for the lovely old mosque and khan, owned by the Siksik waqf managed by a Palestinian family still living in Jaffa.
However, the Siksiks, in cooperation with the community, are cleaning, rebuilding and repairing the mosque. Five times a day prayers are held under difficult conditions. However, each day something in the ,mosque is changed, cleaned, repaired. I think something in the community is repaired as well, through this joint effort.

Monday, June 22

twittering/blogging from Teheran

This little bit of info has been doing the rounds:

If you're on Twitter, set your location to Tehran & your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut down Iranians' access to the internet. Cut & Paste & Pass it on Revolution/Revolucion !

Not sure it will be effective, but it is the least one can do

Saturday, June 20

The "Siksik" Mosque as a point of reference

The old sandstone Siksik mosque in Jaffa's flea market area has recently become the center of a new struggle.
The mosque, constructed in the 1880-ies, consists of a room, an elegant minaret and a lovely sabil. It's located on Siksik street (today's Beyt HaEshel street) .
It was constructed by the Siksik family, still living in Jaffa, next to the ancient khan they owned and operated. Traders on their way to the Jaffa market would stay there during the night, after the walled city's gates had been locked for its citizens' peace, quiet and security.
Up to this very day the mosque is owned by the Siksik family's "waqef" (non profit organization) and under their responsibility. Omar Siksik functions as the mosque's moutawali (caretaker), elected by the family to take care of the mosque.
The family has engaged in legal battles over the years, in order to prevent its demolition and its being taken over by the "Keter" plastic factory located just behind it on what, perhaps, once upon a time, were storage rooms of the mosque and khan. Paperwork possessed by the Siksik family indicates the existence of those storage rooms but does not exactly state their location.

The mosque has not functioned as a place of prayer for many years, but is being maintained and safeguarded by the family, until last week.
The southern section of the Islamic movement entered the mosque, cleaned it and exchanged the locks without the Siksik family's permission.
Jaffa has several active mosques and in the flea-market area has become a predominantly Jewish over the years. The problem is not a lack of prayer space. Moreover, the large "Mouhmoudiyeh", Jaffa's main mosque, is a short walk away.

So why did the southern section of the Islamic movement decide to undertake its self appointed and not very necessary mission right now?

One needs to look at the bigger picture: the construction of a hotel on top of the Jaffa "Kishle" (the old Turkish police station and jail), next door to the Mahmoudiyeh mosque.
The whole area of the clocktowersquare, kishle and mosque included, are protected buildings. When the Nakash brothers bought the Kishle building for some 38.000.000 NIS three years ago, they bought it in order to construct a hotel, and apparently they bought it with very generous building rights. Building rights that allow them to build a huge block on top of the old structures, dwarfing them and the lovely surroundings.
The construction will change the Jaffa skyline and the whole area for ever. A barbarous act of destroying cultural heritage for us and the next generations. Something carried out by money hungry, but very blind, people with no respect for another culture, architecture and art. And also lacking all respect for another religion, Islam.
The planned hotel's royal suite has a swimming pool on its balcony, overlooking the mosque's courtyard where prayers take place. How callous can you get?

Constructing a hotel next to a mosque demands a lot of respect and thoughtfulness on the side of those planning the hotel. However, thoughtfulness concerning the mosque's attendees feelings is NOT something the hotel's architects took into consideration (and i went to the city planning office to have a look at the actual plans). The fight against the hotel's construction has been taken up by the northern section of the Islamic movement.
The southern section kept quiet. Although they, as members of the Muslim council (something like the city rabbinate) should have been the first to take up the fight. So the next question should be: why didn't they? How come they did not oppose the building permits actively?
This is where the rumors start: some suggest money was handed over, or in less nice words, bribes were paid.
The southern section kept quiet. But now they must show they DO care about mosques and religion, which may be the reason why they targeted the Siksik mosque for their activity.

Yesterday some 100 people came to pray at the mosque, in order to express their support for the Siksik family's fight to keep it what it is, a mosque, a peaceful place of prayer.

Saturday, June 13

Some sort of victory, for the time being at least.

It appears last week's demo as well as the letters sent by the Jaffa coalition have had a positive effect: Ron Huldai, the mayor, contacted Yaron Bibi, the director of the Israel Land Administration as well as Avishai Braverman, in order to poin that out the new tender (published last Sunday) for the "Etrog" plot of land is problematic. The second and larger part of the "Etrog plot" in Jaffa is one of the last large public owned plots on which affordable housing for Jaffa's young generation can be constructed.

The fact that all of the Jaffa organizations are involved in the coalition, is important;

The tender has been canceled!

Wednesday, June 10

Help Ezra Nawi

Ezra Nawi, an Israeli human rights activist, may go to jail in 30 days, for having tried to prevent a bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian family's home in the occupied territories.

I met Ezra when, as a young student, demonstrating every Friday with "women in black" against the occupation.
He used to come over and hand out water to all women.
At the end of every demo, week after week, year after year, he would turn up with a huge number of red roses, handing out one to every participating woman.

Ezra is a kind, gentle hearted man, sensitive to others' needs and always trying to help in his way: finding hard to get by medicine for this family, food for that.

More information on Ezra can be found here:

Please assist him.

Tuesday, June 9

Jaffa demo today

Demonstration today at 18.00

Clock tower square is Jaffa's ancient entrance (or exit).
The buildings are historic and their skyline forms part of what Jaffa is famous for, when arriving from the north: a lovely and distinc skyline.
At the very corner sits the "Kishle"; the old Turkish police station, which served for many years also as a jail and an Israeli police station.
The building is protected, but in 2006 it was sold to the Nakash brothers, who want to turn it into a 140 room hotel by adding several floors to this lovely historic building. They have submitted a horrific building plan.
The new design (i saw it this morning at the municipal engineer building) is a monster designed along the lines of the Andromeda compound, "the best of orientalism". The massive building will completely dwarf the existing buildings along the square, including the clock tower and the minnaret of the Mahmoudiye Mosque, Jaffa's grand mosque.
The top suite with ajacent swimmingpool will overlook the mosque's courtyard and the garbage disposal unit will be located next to the south western wall shared with the mosque.
There must be ways to prevent the construction of this monstrosity. This is not a matter only of the Jaffa community but of all of us, as well as of the future generations. Jaffa's entrance is a true pearl, why destroy it?
Why not keep the lovely ancient building as it is and turn it into a museum or a gallery or a cultural center or... anything for the good of the community?
The destruction of the Kishle (by adding several floors nothing will remain of the original style and feel of the place) will completely alter the whole impact of Jaffa upon arriving from the north.
The Nakash brothers should ofcourse be reimbursed for their loss and be given construction rights elsewhere.
But why in the name of making some quick money do we allow the community's heritage to be destroyed?
Demonstration today at 18.00 at the clocktower square

Monday, June 8

If you love Jaffa....help us save her

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 9nth at 18.00 at Jaffa's Clock-tower Square there will be a demonstration against the plans to construct a 140 room hotel on top of Jaffa's "Kishle", the old police station at Jaffa's northern entrance.

The ancient "Kishle" is a historic and protected building. When it was bought in 2006 by the Nakash brothers (of Jordache fame) for a whopping 38 million, the idea was to turn it into an exclusive boutique hotel. However the plans submitted to the municipality show someting entirely different: a 140 room monster, adding several floors to the original building, thereby dwarfing not only the original ancient walls surrounding the Kishle's court yard, but also the clocktower and the Mahmoudia mosque, which togehter make up part of Jaffa's beautiful skyline.
This is not just uglyfying one lovely building, but completely destroying Jaffa's northern entrance and skyline.

In addition the planned added floors will created problems for the Mouhmoudia mosque.
Oh, and by the way, the whole thing is designed in th style of "andromeda orientalism".

Sunday, June 7

Anti Occupation Demo in Tel Aviv

Several thousand marched in Tel Aviv to protest against the continued occupation.

Saturday, June 6

"What do women want?"

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The exhibit is a strangely collected mixture of 101 works by various present and past women artists (who were) active in Tel Aviv, curated by Galia Yahav.
I feel uncomfortable with the definition"women's art". Does it imply art created by women? About women? Dealing with femininity and gender? The exhibit is titled "What do women want".

Some of the shown works are profound and moving (e.g. photographs by Shosh Kormush and Noa Ben Nun Melamed and a portrait by Leah Golda Holterman), but others are, hmm, how to put it gently, not of the same high standard. Some choices are surprising as well, if you show one work per artist, i would expect her best or one of her best.
Another point is also the lack of works by some of the most profound women artists currently active in Tel Aviv.

The hanging is messy, without a clear concept. Although it's nice to have a big exhibit in Jaffa, this is not the way to go about it: sloppy and haphazardly.

The Amiad Centre, 12 Amiad Street, Jaffa

Cruelty Alley

The little girls are already forgetting today's drama, replaying it with twists and turns, and turning it into a fairy tale with a happy ending.
Yet the other "little girl" L. is still severely traumatised and crying non stop, tears streaming from her cataract covered eyes.

Some 15 years ago the place was a successful fish restaurant, before all the other places along Kedem Street (street nr. 60 or Ajami Street prior to 1948) were opened. The clients preferred the newer and fancier places, business went down and the restaurant closed. It stood empty for years.

Its very wealthy owner owns another very successful restaurant in the north and didn't care too much about the Jaffa place, that had stood neglected for many years. Having grown old and perhaps somewhat tired, he let his younger brother take care of business.

The younger brother, well aware of the severe housing shortage in Jaffa, divided the place into 5 small crummy flats and started to rent them out for some 500-600 $ a month. No contract.
You pay a few months ahead and receive a key, you miss a payment and you are out.
Of course the restaurant owner's brother did not bother to get a permit (to turn the property into housing units) from the municipality, nor did he bother to pay the very old and by now huge debts to that same municipality and the electricity company, so water and electricity supply "are somewhat problematic". The tenants, not having contracts, cannot register the municipal and electricity bills in their own names.
Only very poor people, having no other choice, are willing to take the risk to live in such a place. My friend A, divorced mum of two little girls, and barely surviving on her cleaner's salary, is one of them. Her neighbour H, with his young daughter and elderly, retarded, half blind sister live there as well. Some two years ago, their key money flat's ceiling caved in and they have been living in "the restaurant" ever since, while the legal procedures on the other house continue, slowly as these things go.
Their financial situation is very bad and they missed last months rent payment. So today the owner sent in the goons. L. the elderly sister, a sweet women known all over the area, likes to play with dolls together with the little girls that live in the alley. Although half blind and elderly, she really is "their age" and the little girls accept her, as she is sweet and innocent. L. was home alone when the goons arrived.
She was scared so she didn't open the door as she has been instructed no to when alone at home and strangers knock on the door.
The goons broke the door and started yelling at her that she should pack her things because she owes rent. They then started to throw the family's belongings out on the street.
L's screams brought out the all the other tenants who intervened on her behalf, pointing out that L is retarded and that the goons should talk to her brother. They formed a fierce defence around L and called the police. At that point, the goons took off (although the police never arrived and told L.'s brother H. should come in and file a complaint before).
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Friday, June 5

Fighting for Jaffa, together

The settlers who wish to turn Jaffa into a Jewish only city, have in essence caused a complete coalition of many Jaffa organizations who prior to this threat never cooperated.
The call was for a joint struggle of Palestinians and Jews against the settlers, who actively threaten the good relationship in the neighbourhood. And to do so by peaceful and democratic means.
At 17.00 all met close to the area where the yeshiva guys bought a plot of land, where there used to be a market serving all of Jaffa's population.
Among the speakers were Omar Siksek, member of the municipal council, Sheikh Anwar Dake of the southern section of the Islamic movement, lawyer Haled of the Muslim Council, SheIkh Abu Ajwe of the northern section of the Islamic movement, Gabi of the Christian club, Knesset member Dov Khenin, Hana Amoury of the popular committee, municipal council member Ahmad Mashrawi, Ilan and Noga of Ofek Hadash, who carried out a research on the ways of functioning of so called "Garinim Toraniim" and several other settler organizations.
The Israel Land Administration is a public body, managing land owned by the public. When they sell lands, they cannot do so to an exclusive group, as per high court decision (Bagatz Ka'aden).
In Jaffa, the sale of public land is sensitive, for two main reasons:
Originally this land belonged to Palestinians. In 1948-1949 it was declared "absentee" property and handed over to the state.
Some 13 years ago a contract was made (and authorized in the Tel Aviv district court) between the housing ministry and Jaffa's Palestinian community according to which the housing ministry undertook it to create 400 housing units for the community, which suffers from a severe housing crisis.
So far 27 flats have been constructed out of 400.....
The "Etrog" plot is one of the last large publicly owned plots on which a large number of flats can be constructed. Most other pubic plots are smaller which makes it less easy for public housing or affordable housing for the poor Palestinian community.
The Israel Land Administration sold the Etrog Plot to a Bemuna, a company owned by a Hebron settle , who explicitly state "they will sell flats only to religious nationalist Jews".
Were-checked this by registering and calling, interesting in buying a housing unit in the new project. "We" being 2 activists, a muslim social worker and a secular Jewish researcher. They met with blunt refusal. In other cou ntries this would be called blunt racism.

Wednesday, June 3

The Settlers have arrived – the struggle is just beginning

Protest tent against the new housing project for the national-religious public in the heart of Ajami neighborhood in Jaffa.
When?05/06/09, at 17:00,
At the site of the Jabaliye Market, HaEtrog st. corner of Mendes France st.

On May 7th 2009, the Bemuna Company won the bid to purchase land for the building of 20 housing units dedicated to the Jewish national-religious public in Ajami neighborhood – the heart of Arab Jaffa.
Bemuna also declared that “this was only the beginning” and that its efforts for the Judaization of Jaffa would include the further construction of 200 housing units. This project can be added to the already active ‘garin torani’ and ‘yeshivat hesder’ which, under the banner of ‘strengthening’ the Jewish communities in mixed cities and retaining the city’s Jewish sanctity, have already begun to envelop its streets.
Research gathered displays a worrying number of people fresh from the settlement and Greater Israel movements, who are active in a scheme aimed at ‘Judaizing the mixed cities of Israel’ with the simultaneous displacement of Arab residents – a project which has already had some ‘success’ in Acca, Lud and Ramle. These groups are funded by external financiers but are also supported by the state of Israel itself and by the municipality of Tel Aviv. They have adopted the same ‘setting facts on the ground’ approach used so extensively by the settler movement based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In light of this danger, and under the slogan “Jaffa is in Danger! Our strength is our Unity”, all the groups and committees active in Jaffa have come together in order to build a common strategy to fight this phenomenon. This coalition will be active on the community, the public and the media in order to recruit supporters, both from within Jaffa and outside, in the struggle to prevent the ‘expansion of the settlement’ in our city.
We will not be silent! We will not accept the Judaization of Jaffa!
Partners in the coalition:
The Popular Committee for Land and Housing Rights in Jaffa, the Rabita, the Jaffa List, the Southern and Northern Islamic Movements, the Islamic Council, the Orthodox Society, the Ajami Neighborhood Committee, the Jaffa municipal council members and other public figures.
For further details: Hana - 054-4486667

shelter? what shelter?

The IDF home front command is involved in a massive civil defence exercise , in the course of which all citizens were supposed to run for shelter,yesterday at 11.00 when the sirens started blaring.
In Jaffa all went on as usual, nobody, except perhaps kids in the schools, ran anywhere, as there is no where to run to in the large majority of the neighbourhoods. None of the old houses have shelters and public shelters are, few, far away and locked.

In the staircase of me house, suposedle a "safer spot" if there is no better alternative (there isn't, not a room that has no windows, toand the roof is all certified carcinogenic asbestos) but that's where the gaz contained, 2 on each of the three floors. The continuous faint gaz smell suggests there is a tiny leak somewhere, but no technician has been able to deal with it. The staircase is open to the air, so i'm not too worried about explosions in regular days.

But that's the place where i live.
The old houses in Jaffa have no shelters. There is no where to go in case of a real event.

The main thing being ofcourse, that the home command can put a big V on "exercise well carried out" as if preparing for the next investigative committee which will surely follow the coming war because of the civillian catastrophe. Everything is about PR in this country. And very litte about true problem solving.

Monday, June 1


Dressed in black, but for soft crying, now and then, all is quiet in the women's mourning tent.
The imam' s voice can be heard from the men's tent, just a few meters away.
Dry figs and endless small cups of bitter coffee are handed out.
The mother clutches her dead son's picture to her chest.