Saturday, December 30

Eid ElAdha Scouts Parade in Jaffa

The Muslim Scouts organized a huge parade through Yefet and all of Ajami neighborhood today in honor of Eid elAdha, the 4 day long Muslim holiday.
Kids dressed up in various types of colorful scout uniforms marched through the 'hood, playing a (rather small, believe me i know, i live close by the scouts' practicing grounds, so i've been an almost daily captive witness to their practicing) variety of songs on their drums, clarinets, flutes, bagpipes and trumpets, to the cheering of their proud parents and more or less all of Ajami's residents.
Store owners threw sweets, which were quickly gathered by many of the bystanding kids (and some of the little drummers, who now and then missed a beat or two, in order to catch a colorfully wrapped gum or toffee). The kids marched from the scouting home (Yefet Street) through Salsela street, along the Arab Jewish Community Center, close by the French Embassy (the ElRahim house of pre-1948 lore) , the old folks home and back to Yefet street. Although it was really really really cold, it was dry until the very end of the parade.
And now it's time to go and meet with friends, to eat yet more and talk about what's happening in Jaffa, as not all is well.
Or perhaps we should try not to. not to relate to the violence and in stead think about those soon coming back from Mecca. that's the good thing about Jaffa, we share in each other's festivals. Tomorrow it will be New Year and in another week the Orthodox Christmas. (With another parade).

Eid Mubarak to you all, Happy 2007!

Another murder attempt in Jaffa, during the Eid elAdha Parade

Fireworks? Not really. The Muslim scouts of Jaffa organized a huge parade today, with music and fireworks all over Ajami. The atmosphere was wonderful, happy. People in their best new festival clothes watching the parade and cheering. Fireworks all along. Some shot by the parade organizers, many others by young boys, who always love a loud bang.
As a result no one reacted immediately to the loud boom and only after the victim fell down on the tarmac, bystanders understood that it was not firework, what they had heard seconds ago.
A 20-year old man, riding his vespa down crowded Mendes France street, close to the Abu Hilwe butchery was shot in his helmeted head. Falling from his vespa he hit a parked car.
Bystanders took him to nearby Wolfson Hospital in a private car, not wishing to wait for an ambulance which would have taken long to arrive, due to the parade and Jaffa's many traffic jams.
The police were actually present while it happened, due to the parade.
Another victim of violence in Jaffa. I hope this will not be the onset of another series of murders. We've seen too many of those in Jaffa.

For Hebrew info:,7340,L-3346302,00.html

Emek Amok or Sharm... meeting 2

A little more about the Israeli bloggermeeting at Ben Harim' located in the Yizre'el Valley, known in Hebrew as Emek Yizre'el, in short, the sequel.

Yoav Gal, blogger and Ben Harim resident owner, our host in short, took us on a little tour of the cemetary right next to his home.
In his own and special way, he told us a little about the history of the Yizreel Valley, Emek Israel or Emek Amok, valley of people gone mad (my interpretation, not Yoav's). By pointing out specific gravestones (and the lack thereoff on some of the graves) and the layout of what, at first sight, seemed to be just another small countryside graveyard, he took us on a ride through history.
The lands of Ein Harod, Tel Yosef and Gidonia etc. were bought, so Yoav told us, from their Palestinian owners. The sales' records still exist.
Yet i have that suspicion the story isn't all THAT simple. The lands of nearby Afula were also bought form their owner, a wealthy big landowner living in Beirut. the tenant farmers were then expelled with a small amount of money, from the lands they and their families had farmed for a long time. Some made it, others were just too poor to rent land elswhere, and died of hunger. It made a lot of people very angry, as yes, businesswise it was all very "kosher" but humanwise much less so.

The people who moved on the land instead of the Palestinian tenant farmers, were young, inexperienced and very idealistic. Cut of from their families who had stayed behind in Europe, from their culture and their way of life, they wished to create something new.

However hardship, inexperience and the sheer sillyness of being very young and very certain you are completely right caused trouble. Some died, some committed suicide, others went more or less mad and many ofcourse survived and created settlements driven by ideology. An atmosphere not always too welcoming of newcomers or weaker people.
Children who died, were not given gravestones, as they had not been "productive" during their lives. Just a small mound of stones markes a child's grave. No name, no date, no identity.
How must their mothers have felt?

Parents of kibbutz members were buried in a special part of the burial ground. After all, they had not been idealistic members of the group either. But they HAD been productive, so at least they had a stone and a name.

Amongst the kibbutz members, there were many very young people who die; 17, 18 20-something year olds.
Some of diseases rampant in that area, where proper medical care was often lacking. Others of sadness or suicide, deserted by their lover, or made fun of by the all powerful group, as no one would love them; "she's too ugly for love", Yoav told us. So she killed herself.

The Emek scenery is beautiful, green soft, gentle almost, i want to say.
I'm reminded of that nursery rhyme "Ba menuha leyagea, umargoa le'amel". It's a lovely tune, to be sung quietly by a mother, putting her baby to sleep.
The text tells the baby about the time to rest, as the work has been hard, the dew is on the fields and the moon has risen, night has fallen over Emek Yizre'el, .... It's dark over the Gilboa Mountain, the sounds of a shout and of a shot...who died between Bet Alfa and Nahalal?", a nursery rhyme you get it?

Uri Katzir spoke about telling history, about blogging to tell about the human side of events which happened long ago.
The graveyard told me that story and i'm sad.

The collage above was made based on images i shot at the graveyard.

Friday, December 29

Israeli Blogger Meeting (aka, hmmm.... sharmouta meeting)

Too early on a friday morning (that was today, sometime, early, when it was still too cold to think), opposite the Green House (no, that's not a place where they grow plants, it's the military prosecution offices, located in what once, pre 1948, was the spacious home of a wealthy Jaffa orange grove owner) on Yefet street; Amos and Lisa (yes, yes THE Lisa of "On The Face") wait for me to go to the Israeli Blogger Meeting at "BenHarim", a small hotel in Gideona (Gilboa mountain Range) run, ofcourse, by a blogger, Yoav Gal.
The greenhouse is very close to my house, but navigating Ajami early mornings i do not even wish upon my enemies. (Thanks for the ride, btw, i appreciate it).

First of all, it was fun to finally see the faces behind the some of the blogs i like reading. People i felt i knew a little, without having met them.
The morning sessions of the "unconference" (underbroken by the memorable fresh "kremschnitt" or millefeuilles) provided me with diferent ways of thinking about blogging in general and my own blog in particular. Why do i bother? Who do i write for ? (yeah, you, i know).
Can blogs bring about change at some profound level? Or rather, can blogging be part of social change processes?
What's special about the Israeli blogosphere? To my disappointment there were no Palestinian Israeli bloggers present. The majority of the 22 participants were Hebrew writing bloggers.

And the above mentioned sharmoutot? Amos differentiated between different categories, and i guess i belong that one, yep that's me, a sharmouta blogger alright.
Wanna know why? Yeah i guess you do, but you weren't there.

It's friday evening, it's also the beginning of Eid ElAdha and in Jaffa that means partying, and that is NOT a time to write about such matters, so enjoy the pics: click on the Tali's image to make it all the way to picasa:

And btw, Amos has promised me some clothing for the family of the 8 children, so also some practical good came out of the meeting. Thanks Amos!

Thursday, December 28

Eid ElAdha Donation Drive for the 8 "ghost" children from Jaffa: Update

It's three more days to Eid ElAdha:
Holiday Gifts donated so far for the 8 "ghost children from Jaffa", so they can have a true Eid ElAdha include:
  • 2 brandnew baby suits for the 4 month old girl baby
  • 1 baby toy for the 1 year + a few months boy
  • 1 brand new barbie doll for the five year old girl
  • 1 can of "materna" baby formula for the baby
  • 2 money donations on their way
Hey guys, may i be rude? This ain't enough. My 3-4 readers have turned out to be some 200 (since i installed a stat counter, now i know) people, so some of you..... There are always many reasons not to, don't let them influence you.

To recap it: 8 children from Jaffa, in the ages of 4 months to 15 years don't exist on paper. They are not registered as a result of complex burocratic reasons and as a result they go hungry.
It's THAT simple.
Eid ElAdha starts this saturday, today is thursday, so especially those of you who live nearby:
Whatever your political views may be, they are children who live in poverty most of you have never experienced and i hope none of us ever will experience.
I realize more solid help is needed for this family, but that's somewthing i cannot really bring about.
However, i am convinced that together we can do something small and give these kids a true Eid ElAdha Festival.
So help me, please. For donations in kind, drop me a mail with your phone and i'll get back to you, or send your financial donation to "The Women's Court" (a registered NGO with Israeli tax clause 46 so yes, your donation is tax exempt), 220 Yefet Street, 68061 Jaffa, Israel.
Make sure to earmark it "for the eight children".

Ah yes, Eid ElAdha is the major Muslim festival. It starts this saturday and takes 4 days.
It reminds the believers of Abraham's (Ibrahim) willingness to offer his son to God. It's also the beginning of the New Year and it just feels good to be nice to a child so....

Wednesday, December 27

More than 30% of Israel's children live below the poverty line, but there might be a new welfare minister some time soon

Y. aged 10, needs medicine for his heart problem, but his mother doesn't always have the money to buy it, so often towards the end of the month, when there are still a few days to go before the social security payment comes in, she halves his pills, to make them "last longer". She is aware of the danger, but not eating is problematic as well.
The water has been cut off.
So has the electricity.
But these are mere technical problems, overcome with a little help of the neighbors. Not legal, ofcourse, but at least the family can warm the house and take a hot shower.

The family is in danger of eviction from their home. It's rented on the private market and Y's mother receives some help with her rent. but it simply is not enough. So the rent has not been paid for some months now and the landlord is loosing his patience and becoming quite unpleasant.
The children visited Jerusalem, once, on a school trip, but many years now, they have been refused participation, as their mother cannot afford to pay for the trip. She by herself has never been to Jerusalem, she's hardly ever left Jaffa, in fact. Her children are good students, but it's difficult to pay attention when you are hungry. And hungry they are, quite often. They have been given tickets to go to a free soupkitchen (well almost free, that is, the food costs a small symbolic fee), but it takes 2 buses to go there, so it's simply too expensive.

That's what poverty means.
You get it? More than 30 % of Israel's children live below the poverty line. That's one out of every three.
In Jaffa these numbers are higher, especially amongst the weaker populations: one parent families headed by women, many of them new immigrants, large Arab families, families suffering from long term unemployment.
It's the children who pay the highest price for poverty.

There has not been a welfare minister for about 2 years now. They say the current minister, Herzog, of tourism may be appointed. No one seems to care very much.
The welfare budget is cut again and again and even then not all is used so towards the end of the year the unused funds go back to the treasurer. Who cares, it's just the kids who suffer, and the weakenend people, and THEY don't vote, they don't really count, they are not really seen, the see-through people of Jaffa

Tuesday, December 26

When a girl needs a smoke, she

Gets her smoke, whatever it takes. Even when it's really cold and very wet
Anti smoking laws aren't popular in Jaffa, but slowly they're becoming more accepted and smokers rest in their lots, knowing they have little choice.
In Jaffa's cafes smoking is still acceptable and no smoking areas don't even exist in theory. Who cares about the law.

However, some places do enforce the law. So smokers are faced with new problems: finding an acceptable smoking corner (or mahshesha, in localese).

As long as the weather is nice, that isn't much of a problem, but once it get's tough, the tough get going, and they are very tough, Jaffa sized tough.

Break a leg

A truck loading building materials overturned on Jaffa's Yefet Street, this morning at 8 o'clock, after one of its supporting legs broke off.
On its way down, it destroyed a roof and wall of a construction materials storage room.
Thankfully, no one was hurt and collateral damage was fairly limited. It's good kids are on Eid elAdha/ Christmas holiday, as normally around this morning hour the streets are packed with children on their way to school.

Jaffa's Ex-Fountain

"Where?" "Ah, next to the fountain where all the drug addicts hang out." "No, it's north of the fountain". "No, no it's just south of the fountain". How often have i explained or received an answer on how to get somewhere along Jaffa's Jerusalem Boulevard.

Jerusalem Boulevard was once known as "Nouzha", named after the lovely mosque of that name, located there.
Nouzha was a fancy shopping street, in pre-1948 Jaffa. Shops, hotels, the main post office, the "AlHambra Theatre (where Oum Kalthoum performed during one of her Jaffa visitsm today's Discount Bank branch) , the municipality and ofcourse the fountain.
As Jerusalem Boulevard is a long tree-lined street, running from south to north, the fountain has always been a kind of reference point: "Is it north or south of the fountain?", people ask, when told to go to an address somewhere along Jerusalem Boulevard. The fountain was once located right in the middle of the boulevard. On old photographs you can see it was opposite the old Jaffa municipality (today's Welfare Department building) . All around the fountain were geranium flowers or roses. In my mind they are red flowers, although i have no way to know that, as all photographs from that time were black & white (the ones I have seen, that is) .
After 1948 the fountain was removed and put somewhere in a municipal warehouse. In the fifties it was returned and placed in front of the Welfare Department ("Sha'ar Yafo), a little to the east of its original location and became a landmark: when giving instructions for a place along Jerusalem boulevard you indicate it's either to the north or the south of the fountain.
The fountain itself was (yes WAS) a simple affair, sinple in the good sense of that word, of simple elegance.
No more.
Yesterday i was shocked to see it destroyed. One more piece of Palestinian Jaffa removed.

There is a lot of construction going on. The Reform Judaism Daniel Center is almost complete. Perhaps the fountain will be returned (a part of its basin was laying, in tact, on the side) but it's won't be the same.
The systematic removal of Palestinian cultural landmarks from Jaffa, the renaming of streets etc all serve one purpose: telling the Israeli narrative,

Update January 2, 2007: It appears they are reconstructing the fountain a little to the east of its previous place. Let's hope so. It's not only pretty, but also an important landmark.

Sunday, December 24

Blogger Meeting Friday December the 29th at the Gilboa

Blogging is somewhat anonymous now and then, writing out aboutwhat you feel or believe in, nor always knowing who's out reading all of it.
So: another option to meet with each other "unconference style":

When: Friday, December the 29th, between 9.00 - 17.00
Where: in "BenHarim" at the Gilboa.
Why: Fun, interesting, get to meet each other, perhaps cooperate

I really want to go, but i'll need a ride, at least on the way back.

Anybody joining me?

Saturday, December 23

Help Needed

It's almost Eid ElAdha and the family of 8 "non-existant" children, living in poverty in Jaffa, won't have much of a festival.

I got it into my head i might be able to do something small about this with your help, my dear readers.
Normally children receive new clothes, new shoes and presents for the festival. This family has NO income. They live on what some people donate, now and then. There are days when they go hungry. Mostly, they eat food that's nor very healthy, left overs, things that can no longer be sold. The children wear give aways. Brand new clothes is not something they have experienced a lot.

Eid ElAdha is a 4 day long festival, during which families eat well, while paying visits to family members, where they also eat well. Eid ElAdha will start this coming saturday.

So what can you help with?

Clothes for (sorry, i really do not know children's sizes):

  • Tall big girl, 15 years old, wears religious Muslim dress (known in Jaffa as "Pakistani suit", a pair of wide trousers and a knee length tunic, made out of winter fabric) and head cover.
  • Girl, thirteen years old, wears jeans and sweatshirts or colorful warm tracksuits
  • Tall, very thin, 13 year old boy, likes hoodies & jeans
  • 11 year old boy who's somewhat overweight: tracksuits or jeans and a sweater
  • Six year old boy
  • Small five year old girl who loves pastel colored tracksuits with barbie , flowers or butterflies, she always feels cold and wears many layers on top of each other.
  • Boy aged 1 year & a six months, about the size of a 2 year old
  • 4 Month old girl baby, relatively big for her age
It would be nice if the clothes are new or VERY good condition (like new) & clean 2nd hand, they're a holiday present after all.
They need shoes as well and "na'aley bayit" (what 're these called in English?)

What else?
Toys, children's books in Arabic (especially the three oldest children love reading).

And food or a money donation with which to buy food & baby formula for the baby. A gift can of "materna" or "similac" is also ok.

Financial gifts can be made through a registered NGO, the Women's Court, who have full tax exemption status (Israeli tax clause 46) and all necessary paperwork. Send your cheques to The Women's Court, 220 Yefet Street, Jaffa, Israel, earmarked for "the 8 children". Please leave your address, so they can send you a receipt.
For gifts in kind, please send a mail to with your phone number, so we can coordinate.


Tuesday, December 19

Eight "ghosts", alive but not well, in Jaffa

Eight small children grow up in Jaffa, although they do not really exist on paper. Eight minor children, all of them hungry & without medical insurance! Eight small children not attending school in any normal way. Eight children who "do not really exist", as far as Israeli burocracy is concerned.

R. was born and raised in East Jerusalem. She always had a blue ID card as many other East Jerusalem Muslim residents, implying she is a resident of the state of Israel, not a citizen.
She married D. and for about 3 years after her marriage she lived with him in Bir Zeit (West Bank) where her 2 oldest children, 2 girls now 15 and 13 years old, were born.
After about 3 years the family moved back to Jerusalem, where 5 more children were born.
For a strange reason, the Ministry of the Interior cancelled her residency permit, but she has no other citizenship or residency, as R is Jerusalem born.
The two oldest girls were registered in the father's West Bank ID.
The other children were NEVER EVER registered anywhere.

Her husband assisted the Israeli security forces in some way or other, and as a result the family's home in East Jerusalem was torched. After a lengthy legal battle, D, R's husband, was given a status as "threatened" person and allowed to settle and work in Jaffa. D. was abusive and after another small girl was born (now 4 months old), D and R divorced. In the divorce agreement (made by the Jerusalem Sharia Court) D does NOT have to pay any alimony for all of his small children who are all left in the care of R.
R lives illegally in Jaffa. But then, she's illegal anywhere in the world, as the only residency she has, that of Jerusalem, her place of birth, was cancelled.
Her younger children have never been registered anywhere as she had no money to pay the hospital costs when they were born. Only the small baby has a sort of release letter from the Bat Yam Wolfson Hospital, where she was born.
The other children "just do not exist" ,anywhere, on paper. They have no ID numbers and as a result no registration, no health fund, nothing.
The Israel Ministry of the Interior is simply not answering her requests. The strange thing is that her residency was cancelled in an illegal way, because she never lived for a long period in the Occupied Territories. But as she is waiting for their answer, for a long time now, there is nothiong she can legally do.
Since her divorce, she has no income what so ever.
The family tries to live on hand outs.
Only the oldest three children have managed to go to school, where they do not officially attend.
At school, in addition to education, they receive food.
Often there is no baby formula, so the little 4 month old girl is fed things unsuitable for her age. Some friends of mine have been donating cans of Materna Formula and toys, but it's not a solution. Doctors for Human Rights will start providing medical assistance to the family.
But the simple question remains: how on earth can there be 8 children in Israel, who simply do not "exist".

One woman, 8 young children, hunger, illness and distress.
Jaffa 2006

Monday, December 18

The Big Strike - the sequel

A few weeks ago, a general strike declared by the labor federation led to promises being made by the Ministry of Finances.
Steve Adler, a national labor court judge enforced that strike's quick ending after a mere 24 hours.
And then?

Nothing happened.

The Financial wizzards of the Ministry announce in the news they have solved the problems, however, in 44 municipalities the employees, who haven't been paid their salaries for 8 months now (in some case far more than that) are still waiting.
It's Hanuka, next week the Christian Palestinians in the country will be celebrating Christmas, and in another two weeks it will be Eid ElAdha. Yet the employees are still waiting for their salaries.
Indeed, some money was actually transferred by the ministry, however, none of that reached the emplyee's bank accounts.
These people are going hungry, literally. They have no electricity, no schools books for their kids, no winter clothing, and they cannot heat their homes in these very cold winter days. Presents for the holidays? Are you joking?

The strike is about to be renewed.

Oh, before i forgot, in SOME of the municipalities SOME of the wages (about 1/3) have been partially paid, guess to whom?

Saturday, December 16

Lazy Bums & Egoists

Using a bike, walking or travelling by public transport is healthier in quite a few ways. And in parking space starved Tel Aviv it's also quicker.
Jaffa however, has a lot of public parking spaces, and they happen to be free as well.
Jaffa is ideal for responsible car use: use it when you have no choice, otherwise go public, by bike or walk. As many of Jaffa's people are not wealthy, car ownership is lower than in Tel Aviv.
Many houses and streets in Jaffa have been torn down over the last 30 years and little was built to replace the lovely old houses once gracing its ancient streets. As a result, there is much parking space.
Raziel street (once known by its original name of "Boustrous" street, after the idealistic peaceloving Christian Palestinian business man who founded the first houses along that street) is in the northern part of Jaffa.

Graced by some lovely old houses, a home for immigrant elderly and a few rennovated buldings, there are also a number of very mediocre restaurants mostly frequented by well-to-do Tel Avivians preferring the "Jaffa Lite Experience", that is, saying they went to "authentic" Jaffa without really going there.
Really really close by there are a few large public parking areas, where they can park their cars for free, a rarity in Tel Aviv, where normally one has to pay a lot of money for the "pleasure" of parking ones car.
However, the creeps frequenting these restaurants, are too lazy to walk 30 m. As a result, they tend to double park along Raziel street, creating horrid traffice jams.
Another nasty habit is ofcourse parking in busstops. Especially during the darker hours (which start early in winter) it's very difficult for young children waiting for the bus. The cars hide them from the sight of the busdriver who then passes the bus stop without stopping.
As a result, the kids run on to the street when they notice the bus is about to arrive, thereby endangering themselves.
Why? Because some asshole (excuse the language) was too bloody lazy to walk a little and instead parked his (or her) car right in front of the clearly marked bus stop.
This happens daily.

Jaffa -Tel Aviv Municipality and the Carrier Pigeons

The Jaffa - Tel-Aviv Municipality (that's its official name, by the way, Jaffa first) has a weird way of collecting municipal taxes and water bills.
They simply never send them in Jaffa.
And ofcourse when you don't get a bill, you wait, sometimes quite happily, as your financial situation isn't always all that great (understatement of the century), nicer to postpone that payment.
Municipal taxes in Ajami are as high as in north Tel Aviv, for houses constructed over the last 20 years (thankfully the building i live in is older).
Now if the services we receive would be on a north Tel Aviv level, there just might be some sort of justification for that.
However, municipal services in Jaffa are way below the level in any other area in the city. Way below what they should be. Once upon a time bills used to arrive every 2 months. But that time is past & gone. Perhaps they switched the delivery services, or perhaps the carrier pigeon they use got lost or was caught by one of our neighborhood's tigercats.
Instead we have to go al the way to the municipal building to pay the bills. There they insist bills were sent, only they never arrived.

The "Mishlama" offices (our local municipal branch) moved to its new offices between the Christian graveyard and the gaz station. So symbolic.

Friday, December 15

Akhbar Al-Madina - Jaffa's Newest Weekly

Before 1948, most of the country's Arabic language newspapers, magazines and books were printed in Jaffa, which had several tens of printing houses and many bookstores. On sunday mornings Jaffa's well educated elite would gather at the literary club to listen to poets and writers reading their latest work.
At times there would be over 500 people listening, and chairs and a loudspeaker were placed outside as there was barely space to breathe inside the overcrowded club building.
Jaffa was "Arus AlBahar", the Bride of the Sea, the cultural center for the Palestinian population.
All that had been finished by 1948 (in fact Jaffa's elite had started leaving in 1946 when conditions in Jaffa were becoming unbearable, often extendeding their summer stay abroad "until the situation would improve", not expecting the Naqbe, not understanding they would never be able to return to their beloved city.
The printing presses had been silenced.
In fact, there were no bookstores in Jaffa for many years. Then the small Steimatzky store was opened, which carried mostly Hebrew books and a tiny selection of books in Arabic, mostly for young children. A few years ago, "Jaffa, Coffee & Books" was opened but that's mostly a coffeeshop with a small selection of books, some in Arabic. They claim "human rights", but their employment practice proves soemthing rather different. As a result, I make it a point not to go there, although it is quite popular with some of the left.

Office supply stores sell schoolbooks in Arabic at the beginning of the school year. But if you want serious literature or academic materials in Arabic, you have to go to the Triangle, Haifa or Jerusalem.
Some people prefer going to Jordan or once a year, the the great Arabic Book Fair in Egypt, often bringing back many books for themselves and for bookloving friends.
The cultural price of the Naqbe paid by the Jaffa residents has not been researched much, to the best of my knowledge. Researchers and authors Danny Monteresqu, Mark Levine, Sami Abu Shade, Adam LeBor and Dan Yahav all relate to aspects of this loss in their works.

So imagine how wonderful to finally see a Jaffa made weekly magazine on the newsstands today!

I want to say "Mabruk!" to Akhbar Al-Madina.

Tuesday, December 12

The unbearable easyness of punishment

N is a single mother of a young boy, aged 2 years and 3 months. N used to be a drug addict but has been clean for 5 years now.
Since the birth of her little boy she's been unemployed. She lives on social security, trying very hard to be a good mother to little H and not go back to drugs.

N. doesn't read nor write and in the past worked as a cleaner.

H's kindergarden starts each morning at 8.00. He's always on time, well dressed and well fed. N. tries very hard to be a good mother to him. Her older children were taken away from her into adoption, while she was still on drugs.

N. wants to work and when the labor exchange sent her to a place to clean an office, they were happy to have her start working for them, she 's a good cleaner and always has a friendly laugh on her face.
The first day they allowed her to start at 8.30, so she could bring H. to his kindergarden, on her way to work.
Yet the second day they told her she should start every day at 7.00 o'clock.
She said she couldn't as she has to take her son to his kindergarden, which opens only at 8.00 and she doesn't yet know other parents who might be able to help her out, as the kid is new in that kindergarden.

They told her not to come back. She went back to the labor exchange where they told her she will not be given her social security payment for three months "as a punishment for refusing to work".
She cried and demanded to speak to managment, who told her the same thing.
She tried to explain to them she has no solution for her little son, who's only 2+ years old and cannot go by himself to kindergarden.

N is considering returning to prostitution....

Jaffa, 2006

Festival of Festivals

The "Amal" Highschool in Jaffa is located in what used to be the "Manshiye" neighborhood. Close to the sea, in an area somewhat run down these days.
It's a small not adequately funded public school, trying to assist students, most of whom have dropped out of all other schools. Kids who do not believe in the system, and worse, who do no longer believe in themselves.
Different from the majority of Jaffa's public schools, the school caters to both Jewish and Palestinian students.
The teaching language is Hebrew.
Many of the children come from "broken" homes or very poor families. At the end of the schoolday, many of the kids run off to work. In a few cases, the children's income is the only one the family has.
For almost all students, it is the last chance they have to study.
Many of the staff are very idealistic, care about the children. Some are tired, it's not easy doing a diffecult job with inadequate resources.

As the school has children from many religions (a rarity in Israel's single track system) they today had the "Festival of Festivals: a joint celebration for Hanuka, Christmas and Id El Adha.
The Reut Sedaka (a joint Palestinian Jewish youth movement) band gave a rap performance of Jaffa related political songs in Hebrew and Arabic, called "System Ali".

As i myself facilitated an art workshop, i cannot tell you about all of the day, just about the atmosphere.
It was wonderful, great, special. I guess it was the way festivals should be, happy, fun, together.
Respecting each group's traditions, willing to try out , to listen and to appreciate.

Sunday, December 10

The Flourishing Economy of Thieves

Fifty percent of the Israeli working population earn less than the minimum wage. Although paying less than the minimum wage is illegal and punishable by law (one year in prison), employers feel safe doing so, as very few cases ever come to court.

Many of the low earners work through employment agencies in temporary jobs (although some stay in these jobs for over 10 years).

Between 10 -20% of the Israeli employees do not receive payslips. This usually implies their employers do not pay taxes nor social security. As a result, the employees are not eligible for unemployment money, when dismissed from their work. If something happens to them, the employer can deny knowing that person.
They cannot prove they are being paid less than the minimum wage or made to work more hours than legal.

Many of the country's wealthiest people are currently wining and dining in the David Intercontinental Hotel on the Jaffa border, the the Israel Business conference. They are meeting and planning yet more tax cuts and subsidies to their businesses, how to circumvent laws and make a better buck.
They are the employers of those 50%. They are the thieves.

Saturday, December 9

The Hunters and Their Prey

Let me be clear, Mr. Sela, the convicted escapee serial rapist is a dangerous person, a criminal. He violently raped several young women and girls after having broken into their homes, while threatening them with a knife, thereby traumatizing them for life. Their families and close others have been victimised as well.
The guy continued his sexual violence while in prison, towards female staff members. Many women, myself included, felt threatened, knowing he was on the run. For the first time in my life i felt happy my downstairs neighbors keep this very big and mean rotweiler in our common yard.
However, we should also remember the majority of all sex offenders are never sent to prison, because in the majority of cases, women do not file complaints. They are scared the complaint will do them more bad than good. Their are scared of having to testify and be made to relive the trauma in court being victimized once more. They are scared of being objectified by the media as well. An i understand them. It is not as if we are "safe", now that Sela has been caught.
For the sake of honesty, i must also admit here, that i used to be the general manager of one of Israel's rape crisis centers. On princinple i never thought much about the rapist, as i needed all my energy for his victims.
I am absolutely convinced Benny Sela should be in prison, first of all, in order to protect us. Secondly, because justice needs to be done. He victimised and terrorised several women directly, and perhaps all women in the country indirectly. His long sentence (35 years) is just.
Having said all this, making clear where i stand on the main issue, i need to say something else as well.

At first, when i noticed the street posters with his mug and the caption "Let's catch him together, call 100", i felt dis-taste. Something very wrong, although i couldn't exactly put my finger on it.
Then the media coverage showed me the people hunting him, literally proud, certain of their righteousness, civilians just like me, becoming hunters going for their prey.
The forced photographs of Mr. Sela after his capture (he appears to be hiding his face, unable to do so, because of his hand-cuffs), showing him like a prey helt up forcibly by the proud hunter policemen made it clearer to me. The policemen are all very proud. the press must have been invited to make this picture, to show the proof, "yes, he is back in our hands".
Once more, i feel it is good Mr. Sela should be under arrest and sent back to prison.
However the glee of the hunters scares me as well. Yes, Mr. Sela has committed terrible crimes, yes he should be in prison but after all of that, Mr. Sela is still a human being, not an object, not a prey.
The objectification of Mr. Sela causes me no happiness. In fact it scares me. Very much.

It seems i have been given a glimpse of what is underneath the very thin veneer of our civil society. And what i have seen worries me.

I remember that as a child i saw an image in my history text book: the crowd of onlookers cheering as the decapitated head of French queen Marie Antoinette is being held up by the guillotine operator. It scared me, as i couldn't understand how people could possibly cheer when another human being is being killed. At the same time i told myself that "today something like that couldn't happen", not here, not us." The thoughts of a naive child.

Wednesday, December 6

Promises promises

Last week's strike was over quickly after promises were made by the government offices, to transfer money to the municipalities who have not been paying their employees' salaries for many months now due to their dire financial situation.
Some municipalities indeed paid, but he majority never received money and 12.000 employees and 40.000 pensioners are still waiting.
52.000 people who are not eligible for any social aid "because they receive a payslip", yet they only receive the slip without the money.
The strike may be renewed tomorrow.
The worker's unions have done everything to assist those workers. They went to court and the labor court decided in their favor, but the municipalities disregard the judges' decisions. They were asked to provided the government with a few days to find a solution. No solution has been found and days passed by.
52.000 are going hungry, cannot buy medicine or pay for their housing. Their children do not have school books. When will this stop?

Monday, December 4

The Crime of Poverty

A report published yesterday by "Latet", an organization dedicated to donating food to needy people, shows 27% of the poor in Israel expect their children will not be able to escape the cycle of poverty.

There are several ways to read these data: On the one hand, one might say that 73% expect their children will be able to escape the poverty cycle. It sounds better, that's for sure. A little bit more comforting, there is hope, so to say.

However, twenty seven percent is a hell of a number. Especially when realizing that 1 out of every 3 children in Israel lives below the poverty line. (source: the last "Bitouah Leumi" Report on Poverty, 2006 דו"ח העוני). Poverty usually implies having less to spend on education, food, medicine, clothing, housing and culture.
Poor children tend to live in areas where educational, social, cultural and medical services are mediocre or less available. When wealthier people live in less affluent areas (e.g. in the periferial areas), they go private, whenever the need arises.
Poor people cannot afford themselves that luxury. As a result, over time, poor children lag behind. The ongoing budget cuts in social spending are paid for by the children of the poor. The so-called "privatization" of many services has lead to less services or no services to poor people in weak areas. Services have become less available, often because payments make them so, or special conditions, the poor cannot meet.
Poor people know what they are talking about.

It's their children who pay the price, over time, slowly, surely, devastatingly.
There are many organizations providing some sort of services to the poor: Soup kitchens, used school books (often of an older edition, which makes it more difficult to follow lessons) , used clothes etc. I do not wish to criticize the wonderful people spending much of their time volunteering their services. Yet it is shameful that soup kitchens and food hand outs are necessary.

Food, housing, medicine, education and clothing should be a basic right, not a handout that you sometimes receive and sometimes you don't.
A society that allows itself to do less, commits a crime against its children. the crime of poverty.

Wednesday, November 29

The Big Strike, More Than Justified

Yossi Kutzhi (on Galey Zahal radio) just said: "Each strikes ends and always with an agreement of sorts."

This strike is about municipal employees in many municipalities not receiving their salaries for many months now.

My firend Y. is a social worker at a municipal welfare service. She hasn't received a salary for over 7 months. As her partner has a good income, she isn't in trouble.
But she told me about some of her colleagues, e.g. a couple who both work at the same municipality. They haven't received a salary for over 7 months.
No phone, electricity by means of the neighbors, in danger of loosing their small home, as the bank has stopped being "considerate & understanding of the situation", no repairs, food through the food bank, the soup kitchen and relatives.
All go to work every day, doing their very best. They bring office supplies, tea, coffee and sugar, toilet paper etc. from their impoverished homes as it is no longer supplied by the municipality they work for.

So you're pissed off the municipality doesn't take care of the garbage today?

Perhaps join us in the demonstration this coming Saturday, of the "Veidat Ha'Ashukim" (the Council of the Robbed), at 19.00 o'clock, opposite the David Intercontinental Hotel in South Tel Aviv. The hotel where the wealthy of the country are gathering for their annual "Veidat Asakim" (the Council of Business) that very evening, planning to rob us a little more by funneling more public resources into their businesses and affairs in order to become yet more rich.

This strike is JUSTIFIED

Sunday, November 26

Legal Robbers

Tamy just contacted me. She's all of 18 years old, occasionally working as a kinder-garden teaching aid (read: the one who changes nappies, feeds the kids and does the cleaning) and spends much of her time learning how to read and write.
She grew up in shelters for battered women, each time in another one, and before dropping out, she had visited, for some time, at least 20 different schools. Tamy's a clever girl but she never had the peace of mind to study.
Tamy's mum was a battered wife. Several times she was hospitalized as a result of her husband's violence against her and against Tamy.
Some years ago she managed to divorce him. In order to get the divorce papers (the "Get") she gave up everything, the house she jointly owned, no alimony for her nor for the children and she also took all of her husband's debts on herself.
As head of a one parent family she had a difficult time. After the last violence related hospitalization, she was left with limited movement and post traumatic. She was given some social security money, but as she was not able to pay back her husbands debts (the ones she had taken upon herself in order to get the divorce) she got more and more needy, and deeper into debts.
She tried to spend as little as possible, but growing children need food, clothes, books, school fees etc.
Her debts became very deep. At the same time, due to her physical and mental problems, it became difficult to work.
Yet her social security was taken from her. And After that her rent aid.
She's penniless, with impossible debts, not the result of over spending, but of taking on her violent husband's debts, buying food and clothing for her kids.
Over the last Several weeks the court and municipal services have taken away almost everything she owned. TV, video, Tamy's computer, the furniture. the house is now almost empty. There is nothing to take. They do so in a completely legal way. After all, Tamy's mum doesn't pay her debts and she owes a lot of money.
Yet today those legal robbers came once more, and robbed some more. Now the house truly is almost empty.
Last week the water and gaz were cut off.

Tamy talks about killing herself.
Her mother is considering the same.
Tamy, and i know her quite well, might also turn to robbery, or stealing. She has nothing to loose, she feels.
Tamy and her mother are not criminals.
Poverty is a form of violence against these two women. Tamy is only 18 years old.

Jaffa Cats - the pampered ones and their competition

Some of Jaffa's cats are quite lucky, lucky to have been born in the city's wealthier & gentrified areas, where good souls feed them on a daily base & take them to the vet, whenever that need arises.
They can be recognized quite easily: big, well fed, self assured. They don't run away when you come close to them, jumping and hiding in the closest bin.
They gather at the correct hour when they know the food will be arriving in its steady spot, in throw away containers.
They even allow themselves to be picky, not eating everything on offer.
You can stroke them, they are quite used to human attention, in fact seem to like it.

I made a few portraits of those cat feeders, many of them women living in the area.
Yesterday i noticed a homeless guy picking up a piece a chicken from one of the cat trays, after the good, well meaning, cat-feeding lady had left her charges.
Hunger makes people do things. I wonder if the cat lady knows her charges have competition. The cats accepted him as "one of them", i might say. No hissing, no scratching, they are well fed and certain of their daily dinner.
Unlike the competition, the homeless guy, obviously hungry and not so certain of his daily dinner.

Jaffa, winter 2006

Saturday, November 18

The king is dead, long live the king?

Milton Friedman died. I'm not an economist and didn't study much beyond an introduction "101" course in economics.

However, I'm a trained photographer, i have good eyes, i'm an observer (some will say a peeping Tom) by nature. I watch, i see, i wonder and i ask questions.
The enthusiastically embraced so-called free market economy introduced by Bibi and co has done very well for co (read: owners and shareholders of big companies).
But rather less so, for those who are no part of "co". Indeed, the "co's" freedom has increased. Freedom to move money where ever it is most worth while, freedom from paying taxes cooked up by their accountants and wisely invested in offshore easy tax economies. When they need government investment in their business (in the form of grants and tax exemptions as well as a very easygoing policy of disregard of ecological problems, labor agreements or selling their products to regimes with bad human rights records etc.) they have their close friends high up the political ladder.
Whenever it becomes cheaper to manufacture elsewhere (Egypt, Jordan, China where ever) they are also very free: the productions lines are quickly replaced, all temporary employment agency employees sent home with or without their last payments. Goodbye to the investments, made by the government with your and my money. It's a free market after all. And it is more profitable to produce elsewhere.
Of course there should be no taxes on imports, so the cheaply now elsewhere produced products flood the local market and local manufacturers close down. On the short run, some of us even have a feeling of wealth, as suddenly we can buy foreign elsewhere cheaply produced stuff for low prices.
For else where read e.g. China with its lovely employment conditions and "green" ecology record.

Previously nationally owned companies (meaning yours and mine) have been sold to "big money" for a fraction of their true value. The new owners, all friends of our politicians, earn fantastic amounts of money, while doing what they want, disregarding the law on 101 ways, because they can (e.g. see the movie "Shvita" "Strike", on what happens at Dimona's chemical factory).
On the run they also waste terrific amounts of Israel's national resources, water, clean air, phosphates etc., but no one seems to care very much.

The income gap is ever increasing, more and more people live below the poverty line and services previously provided to all by the government are more and more privatized, thereby becoming less and less available to an increasing group of people.

The Lebanon war showed this clearly: the weak, elderly and poor were left on their own (read lack of food, lack of medical care etc. etc.) , in badly equipped or non existing bomb shelters) while the more wealthy had to find their own way to evacuate, and the poorer ones among them ended up in Gaidamek's private tent camp.

This is not a temporary by-product, but the direct and planned outcome of the economic "free" market policy of the last several governments.
Free? Free for whom?

When one out of every three children in Israel live below the poverty line, that is NOT freedom.
Being poor implies spending most of your time and energy on mere survival. Not having enough money for very basic things, such as decent housing, food, good schooling.
Poverty in Jaffa is staggering.
Lately i assisted a few families by accompanying them to the court in order to go bankrupt (i do some assisting in a Jaffa community advocacy project)
One of the limits of a bankruptcy procedure is that you cannot leave the country for at least a few years. Nor can you normally operate a bank account, meaning no credit card, no cheques etc.
For many of us these would be serious limitations on the way we live and our freedom to move. Yet for those few poor families it means nothing. They have never been abroad and do not expect to go there in any case. Many have never even owned a credit card. They are so poor they think twice about taking the bus downtown. They haven't seen the inside of a cafe or restaurant for years (unless it was as cleaner or waitress). They are forced to work through employment agencies (yes, many of our poor are employed and work in fact very hard) for often below legal wages and under bad conditions.

Every now and then their houses are invaded by the hotza'a lapoal who carry away their few belongings, to be sold in order to cover their ever increasing debts. Sometimes they are even arrested, for a debt of 2000 NIS (but that is a lot of money when you have to feed yourself with an income of 770 NIS a month). Is that "freedom"?

"Why do they have debts?" you ask. Because their wages are to low to survive. Their social security payments have been cut again and again. Yet housing. electricity, water, food, health and education cost more and more and more.
There is no way they cannot go into debt. Is that freedom?

They are the "see through" people, their freedom is so limited by their poor conditions, the "freedom limiting conditions" of a bankruptcy process don't limit them at all, they never had those freedoms.

Poverty is a crime committed against the poor by the affluent decisions makers and corporate world in our society. The poor lack basic freedom, the freedom to live a normal healthy life. That lack of freedom is perhaps one of the worst forms of social injustice prevalent in today's Israeli society.

Milton Friedman died, I truly hope his ideas will die with him, but i know that won't be the case. Freedom exists for the wealthy, and they are the new kings.

Friday, November 17

Only Fleas Ride for Free

Jaffa's flea market is located in the ancient meat and herbs market area. Some of its stalls are in fact fairly fancy stores, owned by people from Jaffa as well as from Tel Aviv and else where. Other stalls are not much more than a small table in the street or a car hood, or even a plastic tablecloth spread out on the floor.
You can find almost anything, from used tables, chairs, fake Victorian and Edwardian furniture, crockery, books, long out of print magazines, old family photo albums (i always wonder who has the heart to throw these out) , clothes from India and elsewhere, old videos, used phones, whatever. some of the stuff is dead cheap, a lot of it quite the opposite.
The part i like best is not the streets with the stores, but the place where people simple spread out their stuff for sale on the earth and wait for a hapless buyer. Whenever i need "something special" for a studio photograph, i go to this area first of all.

On one of the corners, there are a few elderly Russian migrants whose whole life seems to consist of selling each other the same things. I suspect they go home with their own things every night, and with the same amount of money they came with. They appear to be selling the same stuff to each other over and over again. I guess it's a habit. I wonder what they would do if i'd try an buy that pair of red patent leather shoes of them. It would surely upset their system, they might go into shock.

One needs a permit to sell on the flea-market, even they need such a permit. Just to spend the day there and put your stuff on the ground in the hope someone buys it, you need to pay a tax to the municipality.
I guess the money is used to cover the cleaning and maintenance of the area, but given the many stalls and people selling their wares, the municipality must be doing quite well.
An armed guard goes around ticketing those who haven't paid for their permit, no consideration at all.
Today i noticed an older man, suffering from a physical impairment. He had an official document showing he's he suffers from physical problems ("teudat nekhe"). He sells old, used videos and cheap or used DIY tools.
Last week he paid for the permit, but his place had been taken by someone else, so he left. He had paid for the permit but had not been able to do any business. So today he opened his stall informing a supervisor of last week's mishap, under the impressions that last week's payment would cover this week's permit.
Withing a few minutes the guard came and started to threaten the elderly man with fines as well as a trial at the municipal court.
The man tried to explain and called the supervisor, to explain about what happened last week, but nothing helped.
He got fined. Rahamim is a beautiful word in Hebrew. But words, i guess, come cheaply. The municipality makes more money from fines & permits.

Jaffa, Friday morning

Monday, November 13

Provocations by Ultra-nationalists in Jaffa

If it wasn't so sad it would be funny, but instead of laughing, i feel angry, frustrated.

The well-published Jaffa visit by some ultra right-wing politicians out to gain a few cheap political points, has led to a media craze talking about "the transfer of the Jews from Jaffa". Yes, that's what i heard today on the radio and quoted to me by worried friends who called me. "Was i in any danger", they asked.


"What the hell are they talking about?", was my first reaction.

Yes there is violence in Jaffa, yes there are drugs, yes there is horrid, degrading poverty and yes there is hatred between some people and other people
But NOT "between Jews and Arabs" as quoted by those politicians, out to make cheap & quick gains,without really being aware of what is going on in Jaffa.

Palestinians & Jews live in Jaffa, peacefully. Neighbors.

Yet Jaffa is plagued by a variety of very difficult social problems. Many of those problems have their source in the naqbe (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948) as well as the decennia long disregard of the Tel Aviv municipality of Jaffa's problems. The weak public education system, a lack of social spending, unemployment (often, but not always, with its base in discrimination) and poverty, an ever widening social gap, housing problems etc etc.
And yes there is also anger.

But trying to explain every discussion between neighbors by "hate" is a fantasy- based over simplification.
Ofcourse there are a few ultra-nationalist hotheads (on BOTH sides), making life a little unpleasant now and then for some people. And sometimes there are disagreements between neighbors which can lead to violence, however unjustified.
But "anti semitism", actions against Jews etc. I have NEVER ever encountered any of that in Jaffa.
There are social problems, there is tension between some of the extremely wealthy new residents living in the closed compounds and the old timers, living in poor shacks next door.

There are also thefts by some of the junkies and i am the last person to say that it is nice. But to turn poverty related social problems into "hate and transfer" is simply ridiculous as well as untrue.
Social problems can be solved. It is a matter of priorities in funding, policy decisions made by the municipality and the ministries of education and welfare. It is a matter of long term community oriented planning instead of running after the money to be made by wealthy real estate developers.

The solution is simple: education, good community development, employment programs and vocational training, opening up opportunities, investing in a viable community and once more EDUCATION.

By demanding more policing and law enforcement nothing has ever been solved, rather problems gave been worsened. Besides, there is FAR too much police in Jaffa already.

The hate exists in the heads of those politicians. They like to create a moral panic, to justify more spending on security, more limitations on civil liberties etc.

Friday, November 10

The Jaffa Conference, 2006

It is difficult to discuss coexistence or cooperation between Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel, when 20 people in Bet Hanoun (the Gaza Strip) died as a result of an Israeli artillery shell, a war crime.
How can Jaffa's only knesset member, the Palestinian MK Nadia Hilu possibly cooperate and be part of the coalition party, when ultra rightwing Ivet Liberman has become a minister.
The two events happened in the same week.
The Jaffa Arab Jewish Community Center has a lovely view of the sea. The weather is nice and sunny, the area is quiet.
Some 130 people sit together, in order to participate in a discourse concerning life in the "mixed cities".
During the first sessions panel members highlight certain aspects led by an incredibly overbearing and self satisfied Dr. Eli Peled, who instead of facilitating a discourse, takes up most of the time for presenting his own rather right-wing views, until several people in the public make their voice heard. But there no longer is time for a true discourse.
The conference is strange. After all, the majority of the participants LIVE in these cities, are aware of the problems and have been thinking about solutions. Instead the panel states the same things we have heard before and very few new ideas arise.
The new CEO of the Mishlama was there, another non-Jaffa ex air force buddy of mayor Ron Hulday.
Less than 15 minutes are left for the public's questions and ideas. The few members of the public who were allowed to talk (hell, where did they find that Peled guy?) pointed out the need for affirmative action. Palestinian Jaffaites should not only work in low level positions, but in all functions in the municipality, and that should include in functions in which they define policies and manage Jewish employees, not just as clerks serving the Arab population.
Sad to hear the new mishlama guy point out "Ahmad shelanu" ("our Ahmad", i guess he mean Ahmad Balahe, the ONLY Palestinian employed in a mid level mishlama position, the rest are cleaners and simple clerks).By using that term "our Ahmed" he said more than he intended.
Sad, sad, these guys seem to conceive of their function in Jaffa as a starting point, a jumping board so to say, in their careers, instead of a true aim and goal. So sad.
The next item on the program was Colette Avital, "the first woman candidate for president".
I don't see any connection between her and Jaffa.
I really didn't feel like listening to MK Collette Avital, so i used that time to get an update ex-camera info setting on some of the stuff that is currently happening in Jaffa.
The next session concerning NGO's was somewhat better, but also left me very depressed. True, there are about 60 NGO's in Jaffa and there is a certain level of wasted of resources, and a lack of coordination now and then.
But there are reasons for that, and solutions are not simple.

By its end i started to wonder what the hell i was doing in this conference. It seems more like a kind of "oh we are so nice" sort of meeting, in which we Jaffaites are serving as a picturesque background, than as a place where action can be planned. The public was silenced again and again.

Due to work commitments, yours truly needs to do some work now and then to pay the rent after all, i couldn't stay during the afternoon session, which was dedicated to the possible cooperation between the Waqf in different places, in relation to the safeguarding of Muslim religious places.
It's a pity i missed it.

But the truth? The part of the conference in which i participated was not very relevant, shallow and not at all geared towards solution seeking or thinking. I felt used as a background for some people needing to show they are doing something.

Not a success.

Thursday, November 9

Just a few thoughts

Nineteen people died in Gaza, and many many others were wounded.

Today the Jaffa conference took place and i have a lot to say about it, or so i thought. But there are nineteen people dead, and everything else seems so futile.

This never ending bloody cycle of violence doesn't seem to stop. The monster is hungry for more blood.

And more blood.

And more.


Tuesday, November 7

Doing well by doing bad

Yes, we can be proud, Haiti, Myanmar and Iraq are doing worse.

So are Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and Belarus. But in the western world, we are true champions of corruption.
Today, the watchdog "Transparency International" published its annual report on perceived corruption. Those on the defence may of course state "that in reality all is well" and it is only those horrible people from the media and the prosecution "who make us believe that we are so corrupt", so perhaps we should be proud instead. We are not as bad as above mentioned countries. It truly could be worse. But somehow it doesn't pacify me. Corruption has become so "normal" we've started to accept it as a "norm".

To quote the site of "Transparence International":
The 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index is a composite index that draws on multiple expert opinion surveys that poll perceptions of public sector corruption in 163 countries around the world, the greatest scope of any CPI to date. It scores countries on a scale from zero to ten, with zero indicating high levels of perceived corruption and ten indicating low levels of perceived corruption.

The weak performance of many countries indicates that the facilitators of corruption continue to assist political elites to launder, store and otherwise profit from unjustly acquired wealth, which often includes looted state assets. The presence of willing intermediaries – who are often trained in or who operate from leading economies -- encourages corruption; it means the corrupt know there will be a banker, accountant, lawyer or other specialist ready to help them generate, move or store their illicit income.

Olmert, Katzav (OK OK, he hasn't yet been indicted, i know) , Omri Sharon, Tzahi HaNegbi and so many others, some as yet "only under investigation", others already indicted or found guilty, but the atmosphere of corruption is there.
WE don't believe "in the system".
In fact the system makes a lot of decisions that are very profitable for itself and its wealthy friends.
How to turn that around?

Hell knows. And i guess hell is not really interested.

Sunday, November 5


Finally, an atm in Yefet street.
It seems absolutely ridiculous, to be happy about an ATM, but since 2000 we, the Al Ajami residents, have been forced to walk or drive all the way to Jerusalem Boulevard (Nouzha, for the old-timers), as there wasn't even one bank, nor an ATM in all of the neighborhood.
Uneccesary to explain how difficult that can be sometimes, not to have a practical service which elsewhere is normal, and no one thinks about it. The elderly, women with small children, expecially when they do not have cars (and many Al Ajami residents are poor and do not have cars).
So, thanks to Bank Masad for opening its Jaffa branch on Yefet street with a real, honest, fully operational banking machine, the First Yefet ATM.
Blessed be whoever needs to be blessed for this miracle.

Summer's gone, it's wet & cold

The cold and the rain, the strong winds now and then are, at least when i'm inside, fun to listen to. The trees in the street next to my house carry out a strange and beautiful wind choreograped dance.
The rains are a blessing, we need water, after all.
Yet for some they are a curse.
Zohara's leaking ceiling leaves her room humid, black spots of fungus adorn her walls, the white plaster forms bubbles, which later rain down on her spotless floors.
Zohara's house belongs to a housing company, but she has to wait for repairs which should have been carried out years ago. For reasons unknown to her, they are postponed again and again.
It's freezing in her house, so she tried to stay in bed most of the day, or covered by a thick winter blanket on the couch.
The winter blanket was a present from a welfare association. She's happy with it.

A neighbor brings her some hot soup, another neighbor sends her daughter with a piece of freshly baked cake. Zohara is not alone, poor as she is, she always has a smile for all. Now that she is not well, following the radiation therapy she has to undergo, her neighbors care her.
It's cold, it's winter. Just her roof needs repair.

Poverty, Jaffa 2006

Sunday, October 29

Kafr Kasem, 50 years ago, 47 dead

Fifty years ago 47 people, among them many children, were murdered in cold blood by Israeli border police in Kafr Kasem.

It was the eve of the Sinai War and a night curfew was called at 17.00 inIsrael's Palestinian villages who at the time lived under very limted military government restrictions.
Many of them were working in the fields when the curfew was called and did not know about it.
Upon their return to the vilage they were made to stand in a row and shot in cold blood, forty seven men women (some of them visibly pregnant) and children, one group after the other.

The horrid was kept silent for a few days, until Mapam's leader sent Latif Dori to investigate. Dori spoke to the villagers and to some of the wounded survivors who were in hospital. The story was out and the guiltyborder police were brought in front of a judge.
The "i acted upon orders" was not accepted by the judges, who had the courage to compare the horrid crime to what the nazis had done.
As a result the concept of an "illegal order" above which a black flag is raised (פקודה בלתי חוקית) was defined: there are orders which soldiers are not allowed to follow as they are inherently illegal.
Shamefully enough, the guilty borderpolice men were released from jail a short while after being sent to it, as they received a pardon.

Forty seven innocent citizens of the state of Israel were killed, because they did not know a curfew had been called.

Lieberman is joining the Israeli government. Are we returning to the days of Kafr Kasem?

The amazing thing is that today the memorial is mentioned in the radio news in the following way (i don't have a TV, so i have no idea what is being said on TV):
"Today the Israeli Arab sector remembers the 47 dead of Kafr Kasem".

I am happy it is mentioned, as for many years no one related to it on the general news, but why "the Israeli Arab sector?
ALL of us should remember Kafr Kasem
All of us should remember its 47 dead
47 Children, women and men, murdered in cold blood, because they returned from their fields not knowing there was a curfew, because someone gave an order and others followed that order.

Life is sacred, the order to kill is illegal.

Saturday, October 28

The beach? Well, it's gone, sort of

Over night a large stretch of Jaffa beach has simply disappeared. Gone, an ex-beach.

May i introduce to you: About 15 M wide and at places more than 75 cm deep, Jaffa's latest sewer.

A few year ago a strange little building was contructed at the southern end of the Al Ajami beach, just below the ancient Muslim cemetary. During the sumer it looks somewhat strange, out of place.
During the winter its function became clear:
It's nothing but a huge sewer, supposedly providing drainage to the always flooded area (after the torrential winter rains) of "Pardes Dakeh" and other low laying areas in Jaffa and south Tel Aviv.
But this is not surplus rrain water, we are talking about, by smell and look, it's raw sewage, coming from "somewhere".
Last year, it produced a small stream, deep, a little disgusting, but something you could simply jump over on your beach walks.
This year the situation is completely different. The strong current has taken away a huge stretch of beach: instead we have a river of smelly black debris-flooded water.
The waves carry the debris back to the beach, so all of our beach is littered with an assorted amount of what, in order not to completely gross out my four steady readers, i will call "garbage" (the understatement of the century, if you like).
I suspect someone in the municipality or at the "Shafdan" sewage plant decided to pull a few switches in order to releave the presssure here or there elsewhere, up north, thinking ofcourse that "well, the shit flows to Jaffa, so who cares, nobody will notice it anyway".

It took away a big stretch of beach and the southern part of our beach can only be reached by climbing over slippery rocks, as crossing the 75cm deep, 15 mr wide shitcreek is not something one likes ot consider.

Even in rainy weather like this, there always are some swimmers, surfers and beach walkers, who come day in day out, unable to do without the sea.
We just stood there, in shock.
No one even thought about going into the water.

Raining, it's raining

Why does rain always take us by "surprise"?

Streets flooded because the drainage-system is clogged somewhere, traffic lights failing, people triple parking thereby blocking the street, because they do not want to walk too far and get wet etc.

Tel Aviv has been covered by asfalt and concrete, rain water can no longer be absorbed by the earth, as is the natural course of things.

Rainwater is not gathered anywhere, although it might be a great solution to save it in this very dry country.

It appears the municipality nor anybody else really take responsibility for this kind of problems.

Roads are washed away, their pavements simply taken apart.
The same thing happens every year.
So are we just plain stupid (by refusing to learn from experience) or do we always think it is not our responsibility, someone in another depratment of the municipality, ma'atz or whever should take care of the problem.

Tuesday, October 24

No shit,... well, actually, a lot of it

The brilliant minds of the ministry of transportation have done it again.

The Ayalon river (that's the stinking little stream in the middle of the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv) is to be turned into a railway, to cater to the increased train traffic coming in from Lod.

Wonderful, public transport is green and i am all in favor of good public transport, but...

Guess what they want to do with the stinking waters of the Ayalon river (that is, the stinking filthy, horrid sewer aka "Nahal Ayalaon")?

You guessed it, it will be diverted to Jaffa, to our wonderful Ajami beach, where it will quietly flow into the meditarranean where its odorous waters will kill off the bathers and the fish.

NO NO NO, not in my backyard and not on my beach either! We have enough nimby's in Jaffa and south Tel Aviv.

Ecology is a matter of social justice.
They want to improve traffic from Lod? Fine. They want to divert the Ayalon river? What will it do to the ecological system of its natural course?
Or maybe clean it up?
Why to Jaffa?
Why not, let's say , to Rishon leZion? To Bat Yam? Ah, because the Rishon & Bat Yam people don't like it? It will do damage to their beach? It will affect the value of their housing? Surprise surprise, we in Jaffa don't like it either.

We have a small, but lovely, beach. We like to swim, to surf, to bath, to fish, to walk & to jog, to picknick, to dance and do capoeira on our beach. We do NOT like bad smells, poisonous water, filth, mud and sewage. And dead fish stink.

Don't even think of it, we will fight you, this means WAR

Sunday, October 22

Id El Fitr

Happy Id!
The end of Ramadan has arrived and with it the festival of Id ElFitr.
Although quite late already, everybody is out on the streets. Neighbors talking to each other , offering each other sweets, cars with louder-than-ever loudspeakers playing Haifa's latest hit, the religious Muslims or the "peleg dromi" in a spontaneous street parade shouting "Allah HuAkbar" and shooting firecrackers.
And not even one border police jeep!

All the girls wear their newly bought clothes, They walk around on their new shoes, slowly, they hurt quite badly, as newly bought shoes tend to do.
The hairdressers and beauty parlors are open till 24.00 at night to cater to their waiting guests.

Happy IdElFitr!

Saturday, October 21

Raining? KREMBO time!

At night it is getting a little cold, the wind coming in from the sea blows away my Japanese paper lampshade. Time to start looking for a light blanket, time to pick olives, time to admire the hatzav flowers, time to drink hot tea & look for shoes instead of sandals, time to plan a walk in the south, soon it will be green in the desert and yes, time for a K R E M B O

Friday, October 20

Paul Celan buried in Jaffa

"Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite
your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers
He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you'll rise then in smoke to the sky
you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too cramped"
Paul Celan, from "Death Fugue"

Jaffa has many numbered streets, nameless alleys usually, known to their inhabitants only by a number, usually three thousand four hundred and something.
Evey now and then, a municipal committee meets to name new streets. There are long waiting lists of recently and not so recently dead people whose names will, once upon a time, become someone's address.
In Jaffa, in Al Ajami especially, we have streets named after rabbis, histadrout (the labor federation) officials, zionist leaders and what not. What not? "Who not", you mean to say.

In Al Ajami specially and Jaffa in general, there are 3 streets named after Arab people: Jaffa's last Palestinian mayor, Abed el Raouf Al Bitar, George Nasar, a histadrut official (seen by many as a yesman for the establishment (in less nice terms, a "mashtap") and then , finally, a small street named after Abed elGhani, a Palestinian man from Jaffa, who died while trying to save the lives of a group of Jewish teenagers who were attacked by a knife wielding terrorist some years ago.

All recent street names have been dedicated to people who had little or nothing to do with Jaffa.
Once, while walking around in my area, i was questioned by a family of very "zfonni" north Tel Avivians about "the quality of my neighborhood".
The municipality had suggested to them they would name a street after their dear dead (who had been a conductor or composer), and the family had come to check it out, prior to giving their OK. I had a great time showing them around and making them listen to the truly wonderful music by Om Kalthoum coming from the windows of what is now MY appartment, but was then lived in by a young man who loved to listen to her at full volume. They decided the area wasn't good enough.

Why can't there be a street named after Om Kalthoum (who performed twice in Jaffa, prior to 1948) or Abed elWahab, or Farid El Atrash or perhaps...
And if these are problematic, then what about Emile Habibi, writer and recipient of the Israel Prize for literature and ex-member of the knesset? It would be nice if streetnames reflected Jaffa's cultural diversity.

Most streets in Tel Aviv have names, so whenever the naming committee meets, they really deal only with south Tel Aviv and Jaffa, where there are still some numbered streets. The policy of naming streets after people who had no connection to Jaffa, nor cultural relevance for Jaffaites and whose names can often not even be expressed properly by Jaffa's residents is bothersome. The lack of Palestinian names reeks of discrimination. So does the lack of female names. I read in one of our local rags that only about 8% of Tel Aviv's streets have been named after women.
Sometimes the streets had names already, and these are simply wiped out, replaced, thereby replacing pieces of history and wiping out peices of national identity and culture (e.g. renaming Boustrous street as Raziel Street).

But sometimes, in spite of above mentioned criticism, i'm happy with some of the names. A street named after Israeli poetess Yona Wollach or after the German-writing Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan are a reason for pleasure.
They are not third league local politicians, but people who truly left a cultural mark.

Yet when looking at WHERE those streets are actually located, and checking if they really are streets.... i feel Paul Celan has been buried once more, symbolically, painfully.
The exit of the parking lot at the "Panorama Building" (a large "small industry" complex located next to the Abu Kabir jail, is that the view indicated by its name "Panorama"?) is NOT a street, and to name it after the writer of "Death Fugue" is truly like a cultural burial.

In the city of property developers and construction tycoons, poetry no longer has a place.

Thursday, October 19

The Godfather of all Cats - Cats of Jaffa, Part 2

Once upon a time, there was a market in Ajami in Jaffa. Actually, there were quite a few markets but over time they were closed, usually not in a peaceful way. The last remaining true market, was closed and then destroyed by the municipality about one year ago.

There is ofcourse that 'thing" called "flea market", which IS fun, but it's for tourists from north Tel Aviv and beyond. (Although historically speaking, it was "souk a'dir", the "monastry's market", which was a meat market, before 1948). Most of Jaffa's residents do not frequent the fleamarket that much, although quite a few are employed in it. Many of today's business owners do not live in Jaffa.

The Ajami market was also known as "souk al yehud" or "shouk ha'etrog" (the Jewish market or the Etrog Market). It was a wonderful market, selling mostly fruit and vegetables, fresh green herbs, pots & pans, shoes, sweets, pulses, nuts and then there was a tiny stall where a very old peasant woman sold eggs. People came from all over Jaffa, Tel Aviv as well as Bat Yam to buy whatever they needed. The big busy market day was friday morning.
Good produce, great prices and a wonderful atmosphere were all part of what makes a market a good market.
But in Jaffa, as always in Jaffa, there are other interests, and property developers put their interest on the market area, a large piece of land, between Yefet street and the sea, close to the "Al Rahim" house (today the French embassy) and the Arab Jewish Community Center, in short, prime proerty in gentrifying Jaffa.

In Jaffa the saying goes, Daoud Tufah (for the Arabic challenged: Dudi Apel, a rich fatcat with, so they say, mafia connections, i have no idea what's true and what isn't) bought the land in order to construct a shopping center and housing for the wealthy.
Threats, bribes and judicial orders killed our market.The market stalls were destroyed using big yellow bulldozers, lots of security guards and some police men. Then the municipality planted fully grown olive trees (where did those come from? Who uprooted them and why?) in order to prevent construction by anyone else but the new owners of the land.

The market stall owners dispersed, some of them opening small stores along Yefet street (Gabriel's vegetable store, the chocolate & sweet store opposite Cafe Paul, to mention a few), others took their produce to the streets, by means of horse drawn carts).

The products at the stores are more expensive than those at the market. Jaffa's elderly and more now take bus nr. 10 to the Carmel market or nr.46 to the area of the old central bus station, where fruit and vegetables are cheap. Indeed some of the old market employees are employed in this area today, receving a msall salary for the work they once did as owners of their own little business.

Yet the REAL owners of the Ajami shouk are still there: the fatcat-lead bunch of wild cats living of the big green garbage container close to the well known "Abu Hilwe" butchery and "Marwan's" restaurant. Two businesses, located in Mendes France street, once gracing our market's main entry.
Being a vegatarian, i don't exactly frequent either store, but my friends say the quality of the produce is as excellent as once the fruit and vegetables sold on our market.
The cats are led by a slow moving extremely strong menacing monster, shown on above picture.
No, these cats do not have names. They are wild and defend their territory by all available means and in Jaffa that means anything, a lot, mean, fierce, "fair game" is for pussies.

Quite clearly they are on the Abu Hilwe and Marwan payroll. As their green container headquarter's located quite close to the home for the elderly (the ugliest building on Yefet, the high pink appartment tower), there apears to exist a strange agreement between one of the elderly Russian speaking ladies and the cat leadership. She provides water on hot days, the stalinesque cat leader allows her to stroke his head a few strokes at the time.

But then, when you are the true leader, you can allow yourself an indulgence now and then.