Sunday, August 30

Housing Demo in Kfar Shalem (Salameh)

Until 1948 Salameh was a fairly prosperous Palestinian village, close to Jaffa. Its original inhabitants and home owners were violently turned into refugees, to be replaced by mostly Yemenite immigrants. Soon after 1948 it was renamed "Kfar Shalem" and became a far away suburb of quickly developing Tel Aviv, to be engulfed by that city's new neighbourhoods after a few years. But the villge stayed the village. Lovely one and two storied houses on plots of land, encircled by fruit trees and chicken coops.
The unused mosque in its busy center. Small crooked streets. Muddy in winter and a dustbowl during the hot summer months,
Children were born, then grand children. Rooms were added, bathrooms fixed, new gardens planted. The village developed. Families shared laughter and sadness.
Suddenly the village became attractive, green, low-rise housing, romantic. And housing prices started to go up. The municipality realized there was money to be made, as did the Israel Land Administration, who had become the "owners" of the refugees' "absentee property in 1948 and rented it out to the Yemenites.
As in Jaffa, demolition and eviction procedures were started.
Some years ago, the original Yemenite inhabitants and their children were left very angry, yet almost defenceless, after one home owner was killed by the police after having barricaded himself on the rooftop of his home, in order to protest his eviction.
Two years ago several families were evicted from their homes which were then destroyed in order to make place for construction for the wealthy, just like in Jaffa. Political activities and a court case seemed to stop the process.
But now the evictions have been renewed. And a bond has been formed between the Jaffaites and the people from Kfar Shalem, Salameh, almost as in the old days. 
Like in Jaffa, people are tired of being treated like so much dirt. They are putting up a struggle and today's demo is only the opening shot in that struggle.
Several hundreds marched from the village to the nearby Moshe Dayan 4-lane highway, which they barricaded  in order to protest against the renewed evictions and demolitions. The police, for the time being, were surprisingly considerate. Or maybe i have become used too much to the Jaffa police's violent standards?

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Tuesday, August 25

Another Jaffa family out in the streets

When R. and her 5 children came home this afternoon, they found all their furniture out in the street, much of it severely damaged and broken. The doorlock had been changed.
The house owner, well known and very wealthy Jaffa property tycoon Walid Aboulafia (of bakery fame), had abused R's absence from the hovel she had been renting from him for some three years, to evict her, illegally, without a court order.
R. asked the police to come, but the sinlge police man did not help her. "There was nothing he could", do he said. R. was under so much pressure by then, that she forgot to take his details.
In fact, it is Mr. Walid Aboulafia who broke the law by evicting her illegally, without a court order.

The flat R. rented was a 2 1/2 room affair in Jaffa's Al Ajami neighborhood. Damp, it's walls blackened by fungi. In the winter the rain entered through the cracked walls. The kitchen sink was not connected to the sewage, so R. used a bucket instead.
For over a year she and her kids had their daily shower at R's mother's tiny house, as the shower in R.'s house didn't function and the owner, rich Walid Aboulafia, refused to repair it.

R. who paid a very high rent relative to the ugly state of the house she lived in, stopped paying the rent. The owner cut off her water and electricity supply. It was easy for him to do so, because in the past, the flat had been larger and he subdevided it, one assumes without a permit. As a result R. shared the electricity and water bill with her neighbors, so it was very easy to punish her.

R. started looking for a new place, but the rents in Jaffa have gone up and all she has is her social security payments. Also many houseowners want all kinds of guarantees, which when you live on social security, you cannot easily get.

The beds were literally broken, as if they had been thrown from the second floor where she lived. Maybe they were.

Due to the Ramadan, Jaffa's streets are very quiet, so we have no witnesses to the method of furniture removal. The broken aquarium says it all, i will not ask questions about the fish. Volunteers from the Islamic movement helped R. to move her stuff (or rather that part worth salvaging) to Esther's house. Esther who's always there to help each and everyone. But the damage has been done. Five children out in the streets. Next week the schoolyear starts. I wonder how R.'s children will cope. We could not find their new schoolbooks in the mess.

Ramadan, Jaffa 2009

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What the.....

Over the last several days large groups of armed soldiers have been seen walking around Ajami and GanTamar every evening, going into the small alleys, only known to locals who live there.
Carrying enlarged arial photographs, they walk around, often loosing their way and backtracking. When asked, they say they are doing "urban navigation" exersises. Really?

In Liebermanland i start to feel more and more uncomfortable.

Friday, August 21

Ramadan Karim

The Siksik mosque, originally constructed in the 1880-ies, partially demolished by a bomb during the Naqbe, abused by the Keter Plastic Factory between 1960-2006 and reconstructed by the community in 2009, was inaugurated last wednesday, just before Ramadan.
Jaffa's Palestinian community was deeply involved in the reconstruction and building. At the same time the community was built by the concentrated effort of reconstructing a lovely mosque.
The inauguration was attended by over 500 community members, as well as Sheikh Raed Salah of the northern section of the Islamic movement and knesset member Ibrahim Zarsur of the southern section of the Islamic movement..
The tension which often exists between those two sections was not present. There was a feeling of pride and unity.

Ramadan Karim to the Jaffa community and all those to whom it applies.

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Tuesday, August 18

Mum & three kids became homeless today

Manal Haj is a single mother of three school age children. They are all out on the street , homeless.
Three days before the onset of the Ramdan and two weeks before the beginning of the school year, Manal and her children have nowhere to go after Halamish, the public housing company evicted them from their home today.

The story is one of those burocratic flipflops, as Manal has been eligible for public housing for over 13 years, but due to change in the type of social security she receives, the payments were stopped for some three months, after which she started receiving a different category of social security.
In order to be elegible for public housing, you need to be dependent for at least two years on social security. Manal receibed social security for 13 years, but during 3 months last year she didn't receive a thing and as a result lost her housing rights.

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Sunday, August 16

Quote of the week, by Robert Paxton

"Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline......... a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

From: Robert Paxton, emeritus professor of History at Columbia University, The Five Stages of Fascism

Hmmm, sounds a lot like Israel.

Saturday, August 15

A New Home for the Marzouk Family

The Marzouk family from Jaffa were living in a dangerous building, that was about to fall down.
The public housing company, Halamish, offered them another home, but due to burocracy and municipal stupidity, the family were stuck in the old home.
I wrote about the family's ordeal a few weeks ago, after one of the children was almost killed by a huge piece of concrete that fell from the ceiling.
The story was picked up by Yediot Ahronot, Israel's favorite daily and this week the family finally moved into their new home.
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