Tuesday, August 30

Boycot Castro

Update September 16:

THE Boycot worked. Castro gave up!.
Or partially at least, as they will be selling the stock but not buy new (or so they say).
One wonders how this can be checked, but at never the less a small success

The Winter Collection of Castro Has Lots of Real Fur Items. Don't Wear Dead Animals!

Gentrification's Damage

This morning i read in the newspaper the Housing Ministry is going to establish a special legal unit to evict people from public housing.
In order to qualify for public housing you need a special permit, which is very difficult to get. You need to be really poor and have absolutely no other option available. Moreover, you may not have owned a house in the past.
Even so there are huge waiting lists for people who do qualify for public housing. They have to wait for many years in order to receive the keys to a small slum appartment in one of the public housing ghettos.
Jaffa has several of these and all are strong contestants in the "worst slum in the country" contest.
Crime rates, drug dependency rates, violence, school drop out, you name it, they have it.
Yet many people come from families who once owned Jaffa's lovely old buildings.
Thousands of these buildings, many of them home to Palestinians who were made to leave Jaffa in 1948, have been destoyed. the rubble thrown into the sea, to create the "Givat HaZevel", the rubbish mountain. Other families moved into the big luxurious houses left by the refugees: In houses belonging to one family, often 6 to 10 families were housed under cramped conditions. Although very lovely, the closeness to sea creates a continuous demand for the upkeep of the houses, which has not been adequatelyt provided by the public housing companies responsible for housing so many homeless families in the ancient mansions left by the Palestinian aristocracy who once used to live in Jaffa. As a result the buildings deteriorated badly. In some caes the new owners were able to buy housing rights of the buildings from the state. Yet the upkeepwas expensive and the often unemployed inhabitants, were not able to carry out the necessary repairs. Also, many could not pay the mortgages. so in the end they lost their property as well as the right to public housing (because they had been "house owners, therefore not eligible).
But for the others, in comes the municipality offering the people "modern public housing" and many are attracted by the new flats, erected close to the Muslim graveyard and the sea. Thus the ghetto was formed. Very badly constructed and maintained public flats.

The old Arab houses? Well those that weren't destroyed are undergoing a process of gentrification:

Buildings have been bought for little money by enterpreneurs, who turn them into high class appartment compounds for the very wealthy. This process has driven up the housing prices for young couples beyond anything they can afford.

As a result married sons stay in their parents house with their wife and children, and just add another room or close a balcony in order to turn it into a room.
Building permits are not to be had, so it is done illegally (by lack of any other option).
The space is maximized, doors turn into windows or the other way around. Each little nook and cranny is recycled into something useful.
Thus Jaffa has many patchwork houses.
Still there are no solutions for many of the people.

Evicting the poorest from their public housing is an idea i just do not grasp. These people do not pay because they have no money. Kicking them out, will their problems make only worse and more diificult to solve.

And what about some simple compassion? I know some of these families. They make continuos choices between buying medicine or food, paying the electricity bill or buying the kids schoolbooks (tmorrow is September the first) etc.
Often there literally is no food in the fridge.
Kicking them out with their children is inhumane.

Early morning Adjami

Adjami is a little like a village, a fishermen's village, right in the middle of the city. People keep chickens, horses, donkeys and the occasional camel.

And dogs, there are lots of dogs of course.
We have an alley called, unofficially, "rotweiler avenue". No further explanation needed.
The feline species is well represented. Stray cats live mostly around the butchers and fish stores. There used to be a market, but the municipality closed it some weeks ago for doubtful reasons. Since then, no more cat food there.
And, what's worse, we are stuck without a market. But i wasn't talking about our lack of municipal services right now. Jaffa cats are thin, clever, and there is nothing nice and cuddly about them. Tough and streetwise would be a more apt description. But even the toughest of the Jaffa cats doesn't dare fool around with that other species, the Jaffa egglaying community.

So we're talking chickens, or rather cockerels or, to be more precise, the king of cockerels. The undoubted leader of the neighborhood egglaying gang. They all keep strange hours. But one of them really upsets my neighbor, an elderly patriarch, left speechless due to an operation on his vocal cords.
Said cockerel wakes the patriarch, standing below the bedroom window according to old fashioned village manners starting from about 3 A.M. , at least an hour before the muezzin's early morning prayer call.

The shutters are thrown open a few minutes after the onset of the early morning concert.
It' s pleasant and cool at this hour. The patriarch, in his striped pijamas, goes out to the balcony, where he keeps a stash of floor tiles, specifically for the purpose. (or maybe they were brought there a long time ago for a purpose no one remembers). He starts insulting the cockerel (in the quiet of the night it is actually posibble to make out some of the things he says in his voiceless raspy voice).
The cockerel, unimpressed, continues.
This is the moment when the tiles start flying into the noisy animal's direction.
I don't know if the patriarch misses him due to bad eyesight, or perhaps the-great-cockerel-god protects this particularly noisy one from any danger. Or maybe the patriarch is a really good shot and just want to stop the racket without hurting anyone.

Early morning, still cool, time for my first espresso. Another day.

Sunday, August 28

The quiet before AND after the storm (the next one)

Four dead in two weeks time

While writing last night's post, i didn't know that the next murders had already taken place. Two men, Mustafa Abu Huti aged 42 and Yaser Abu Shahab, 26 years old, reported to be close to the Hamed family (one of the families involved in the feud), were murdered in the "Etrog" market, not far from my home.
I write "the next" because everyone knows it's just a matter of time.
Just a sunny saturday afternoon, time for the beach, a rest, reading a good book, sweet ice-cold watermelon or "Andre's" icecream.
Two people killed in broad daylight, in the Etrog market's parking lot. They were sitting in their car. A logical thing to do, when you have an airconditioned car. What were they talking about? Were they laughing? Were they talking about their families, children, brothers, sisters, parents? A quiet saturday afternoon. Were they planning to go the the wedding party later that evening? No one will know. I ddin't know them personally.
I'm sure i've seen them on the street, or on the market, perhaps the beach or in the line next to Andre's icecream parlor. Adjami is not a large neighborhood and you know most people at least by face. There are few services in Adjami, so we all meet, at the grocery, the health clinic, Paul's cafe, the watermelon vendors in Yefet Street or Fakhri Geday's pharmacy. Perhaps I know the women of the family (wives, daughters, mothers, sisters) from the "Women's Court" or one of the 3 fashion stores on Yefet or, that one is almost certain, "Video Alpha". I right now cannot fit the names to the faces.

But i know another family is hurting.

I also know this will not be the last family to be hurt.

In fact, shots were fired at the house of 3 young girls i know well. No one was hurt. They were probably intended for their brother. No one was hurt. It happened at 5 o'clock in the morning, friday. As i wrote, no one was hurt (physically that is), the windows were broken. Life goes on.

I feel very helpless in face of all this violence.

Saturday, August 27

Adjami, the quiet before or after the storm?

Saturday evening, a wedding in the Muslim Scouts Club (right below my window). The women dance in a separate area. The atmosphere is happy, it's a wedding after all.

The music is loud.
Things seem so normal.

The stress is on "seem". Something happened. We all know the missiles were just the beginning. We also know the police are ineffective. Or maybe they have selected to be ineffective? Adjami is not highly prioritized on their list of preferences.
The municipality is more interested in the affluent neighborhoods.

Small groups of young men stand on the street corners, meet in waterpipe smoking parlours. Many of them are jusr good kids, frustrated by discrimination. The drop out rates in Jaffa's public Arab school system stand at 53%. (In case you didn't know, Israel has a separate educational system for Jews and Arabs). there are some - excellent - private schools. But only the rich can afford the tuition fees. So Adjami's kids have to attend the public system. Most of Jaffa's public Arab schools are a disaster.

Even the sound of firework (yes it IS firework - this time) makes people jump.

Something needs to be done, violence is preventable, isn't it?

Just a "Lau" missile, who cares?

Friday morning about 2.00 o'clock.
Hot, humid, impossible to sleep.
Reading a book about the middle ages & pondering Desiderius Erasmus.
Three loud bangs and a forth, slightly less loud one, break the silence. The windows rattle.
The building actually shakes.
Sure, during the wedding parties they fire fireworks, and we do hear shots in the neighborhood, now and then. And i do know how to differentiate between those sounds.
A terrorist attack? At this hour? In a mostly Palestinian neighborhood? A clock challenged terrorist exploding him/her self a little too early and in the wrong spot? Cooking gaz bottle explosion? A car? Grenades?

The radio & news sites say nothing at this time, so it's not a bomb. That much is clear. News is fast here, even at these hours.

Sirens start, they must be police cars, ambulances. Not a lot, given the loudness of the bangs.

Only next morning things become clear. In the ever-increasing violent war between criminals, "Lau" missiles were fired at some peoples homes. Two wounded, an elderly couple.
In fact the wrong home, a case of mistaken identity, the police think.
Weird, i would think anyone's house to be the wrong one. But then, that's the police "thinking".

And something else:
Lau missiles are manufactured by a company called "Raytheon" meaning "Light from the Gods".
Said company also produces bunker blasting bombs and other likewise goodies.
Ask the victims what they think of that little lamp burning bright, light from the gods alright.

Tuesday, August 23

All those women

A large green tent has been erected next to the delapidated building in which she used to live. Black plastic chairs were brought in from the near by mosque .
A CD player plays a loop of a praying voice, soft, gentle.

The men sit in the tent outside, the women in the cramped room inside the building, where it is hot and stiffling.
Some cry, some play with the little children on their laps.
Coffee goes around, bitter, concentrated, in small cups.
Bottles of water and plastic cups on the table.

A large wedding photograph of her grandson on the wall, next to a framed sentence from the Koran, gold on a green background.

It's hot but the fans don't work, the electricity was shut off several months ago, as she couldn't afford to pay the bills. The bottled water is brought in by the neighbors. The municipality cut off the water supply as well.

Aisha, the youngest and not yet married daughter sits on the floor and cries. Quiet sobs.
Asma, 5 years old granddaughter, plays with a doll on the bed. The mattress has been removed.

Zainab died last night.

לזכרה של דליה רביקוביץ

Daliah Ravikovitch died. I love her poetry.
I hope i create no copy rights problems by presenting one of her poems here.
She says it so much better than me:

אפילו אלף שנים/ דליה רביקוביץ

אני לא יכולה להכין את העולם מחדש
וגם אין טעם.
יום ליום ויום ללילה דבר אינם מביעים.
באביב תפרח אפונה ריחנית, ורדים ופרחי אזדרכת
הכל בגודל טבעי והכל בצבעים.
חידוש אמיתי לא צומח גם פעם לעשר שנים.
מי שרוצה לשאוף ריחות שושנים
יאסוף אותם מן הרוח
ומי שרוצה לנטוע עץ שיטע לו עץ תאנים,
לטובת הדורות הבאים.
אשפר לשאול אותי אם ראיתי פעם יופי,
ואני אשיב שראיתי הרבה אבל לא במקומות הנכונים.
ניקח לדוגמא את אשדות הנהר
מובן שראיתי,
אז מה?
מפלים אדירים הם מראה שאיננו נעים.
הדברים היפים באמת אינם מתהלכים בחוץ
לפעמים הם קורים בחדר,
כאשר הדלתות נעולות וגם התריסים מוגפים.
באמת, הדברים היפים
הם אינם נהרות או הרים או חופים.
אני יודעת עליהם יותר מידי מכדי לרמות את עצמי,
ולחשוב על דברים נוספים.
מה שנותר לאחר הכאב הוא הסקרנות
לראות איך יפול דבר,
מה יהיה בסוף,
לכל הדברים היפים.
אני יודעת: אינני חיבת לנטוע עץ תאנים.
אפשר גם לנהוג אחרת.
אפשר לחכות לאביב, לורדים ולסיפנים.
אבל אנשים במרוצת הימים נעשים קשים כציפורניים,
אפורים כסלעים
עיקשים כאבנים.
אולי זו תצפית מפתה להפוך לגוש של מלח.
עם כוח מינרלי.
להשקיף בעינים ריקות על מפעל האשלג והפוספטים
אפילו אלף שנים.

Adjami - for your eyes only

The early morning hours, when it's not yet too hot, are best for walking around the neighborhood. Towards dusk the light becomes more beautiful, the old walls look like gold, almost. Yet the heat keeps me in, during this time of the day and season. It's hot and humid.

Time for cold watermelon, some grapes.
Time for Jabaliya beach (or Hof Aliyah as it is called in Hebrew, these days).

Jaffa, Adjami, keeps changing. Many of the beautiful old houses are being destroyed, in order to establish fancy new housing for the wealthy. Usually in closed compounds, well guarded. The rich like their privacy and real Jaffa looks better from the distance created by the guard at the compound entrance.
There is much poverty. Large families live, right next door to the rich, in small flats. The lovely mansions once owned by wealthy Palestinian families, have been sub-devided into many apartments. Each small appartment houses a family. Twelve people in three rooms is not uncommon. The families often add a room or two, without obtaining a building permit. (In many cases, even if they tried to get a building permit, they would get it). The municipality destroys these "illegal" additions. As people need the rooms, they will rebuild them, but often from inferior, cheap materials. So it won't hurt too much if it's destroyed once more. Over time the houses start to look like patchwork. A quilt made from blocks, recycled wooden doors, pillars from other, destroyed buildings, car windows and cheap iron or asbestos roofing, a quilt that tells the history of a family.
A quilt that can be read and understood.
The drying laundry hanging outside tells the current history, the people who live there now, what they do, how they live.
You can learn a lot from laundry.
Use you eyes, your imagination, your heart.

Monday, August 22

Images from a Violent Society

I live in Jaffa, an ancient seaport, once "the Bride of the Sea" or the "Bride of Palestine, today a slummy suburb of the Tel Aviv.
Adjami, to be more precise, is home. A very beautiful as well as ugly, violent and tough neighborhood .
Close to the sea and "Givat HaZevel", the rubbish mountain, which covers the once beautiful beach of Jabaliyeh and Adjami.

Most of my neighbors are Palestinians or "Israeli Arabs" or "Arabs from 1948" (selecting the correct term is more than just semantics). Some are Jewish Israelis, some rich, some poor.
I live here, because i chose to live here. And it is an ongoing decision
(Will i be here, 5 years from now?). There are so many problems here, violence, drugs, extreme poverty. But there is also so much warmth and the people are so "real". There is so much beauty and yes, it is romantic too.

An emotional choice, for many and complex reasons. It's where i create and where my images come from.
Words aren't really my preferred media.

It's where i live, love and create and try to survive.