Saturday, June 6

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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