Thursday, August 31

Jaffa beach privatized....

Jaffa has a lovely beach, Jabaliya beach, or, as it is called in Hebrew, "Givat Aliyah Beach".
Jabaliyah was the name of a small Palestinian fishermen's hamlet, just south of Jaffa.
Over the years (before 1948) it developed and became a part of Jaffa. "Jabaliyah" is also the name of the Gaza refugee camp, to which many of Jabaliya's residents escaped in 1948.
The Hebrew name Givat Aliyah sounds like Jabaliyah, although in it really means "Hill of the (Jewish) Migration to Israel".
Jabaliyah Beach today is one of those places in which Jaffaites from all social strata and ethnic groups meet, Al Ajami's Palestinians and gentrifying Jewish yuppies, recent migrants from the ex-Soviet Union territories, who live in Jaffa's public housing estates (Yafo Daled and Yafo Gimmel), Ethiopian jews, "illegal" labor migrants from Jordan, Egypt as well as Palestinian laborers who have managed to sneak into Israel for work purposes from the Gaza strip, children & adults, young boys washing their horses and donkeys in the sea water, women in tini bikinis next to fully dressed devout Muslim women; During the early morning and late evening hours you can still encounter many fishermen.
We all meet at the beach and enjoy a slice of cold water melon or an icicle, while hearing the shouts of the lifeguards in both Hebrew and Arabic telling this child or that woman to "immediately get between the flags", where they can be watched, as today the currents and waves are high, strong and dangerous".

The beach has well developed facilities, bathrooms, changing rooms and a first-aid post, all for free. There is lots of parking space.

That is, when the facilities are avaiable. Lately we have seen more and more occasions on which private companies simply cordon off a part of the beach and ALL of the facilities in order to hold private parties.
They put guards at the entrance to keep us out.

The beach is public and belongs to all of us. The facilites are there to serve the Jaffa population, not party goers from north Tel Aviv who want an "authentic Jaffa evening on the beach" while guarded by their own gorrillas so, money forbid, one of us might sneak in and grab a pita from the buffet.

Seeing it stolen from us by the well-to-do with their catering services, security companies and Dj's REALLY pisses me off.

The image shows an event organized by a company called "artnet" for their staff and select customers, yesterday evening.

Wednesday, August 30

One out of every three Israeli children is poor

, about

The Social Security Institute published its bi-annual report on poverty and things are poor indeed.
TWENTYFIVE % of Israelis are poor and one out of every three children is poor.
There will be headlines for a day or two, and demands for "a clear policy in order to eradicate poverty", then some other item will take over our attention, until the next report, and the next.

The poor don't need the report, they experience poverty daily. And they also know something else, it's not going to end soon. Many were children of poor parents, and their children will probably be poor as well. "That's how it goes". Or is it? Why?

Israel has 4 (or was it three?) ministers without portfolio, but there is no Minister of Welfare, after all in that particular field all is "well".

In Jaffa, poverty means no electiricty and water (or illegal connections, circumventing the meters, which is quite dangerous as it goes).
It means not having enough food (i'm not talking about quality, but about quantity).
It means not buying prescription medicine for your child as you cannot afford it, or it would imply not buying bread for all of the family. It means not having schoolbooks. It means not attending schooltrips, because your parents haven't paid the bills for those for many years now, it means sharing one pair of shoes with another family member, never getting a real present when the holidays arrive, it means never having visited Tel Aviv although you live a 10-minute busride away in a suburb, Jaffa. It means having no glass in your windows, so it gets really cold, drafty and wet inside the house during winter. It means being kicked out of your council housing 3 days after you came home from a cancer operation, stitches still bleeding, sleeping outside, when you come back, sick, from chemotherapyIt means a 18 year old girl leaving school to provide for all her brothers and sisters, as the family has no other income from her underpaid job as a checkout girl, it means a 12 year old child going into prostitution and i can go on and on and on.

ALL details here are based on families i know myself, personally.

"One out of every 3 children" is not a ststistic newspaper heading, to be forgotten tomorrow, it's reality.

And it is a problem that CAN be solved. It's a matter of priorities. But the needs of those who have appear to be stronger than those who don't have, after al, according to the same report, the rich have gotten richer.
No and food parces are NOT than answer, nor is donating your old computer to a kid that has none. It's about deviding resources more equally, about providing real chances, about raising the minimum wage, about no more welfare cuts, about having a minister of welfare!

The image shows the entrance to the main Jaffa office of Municipal Welfare Services and Halamish, the public housing company.
I manipulated the image as an illustration of what i think about the level of service they provide.

Saturday, August 26

And some more shooting...

Last night, 23.30 o'clock, Yefet street, shooting time again.
Apparently the police have arrested a suspect or so they claim. It isn't even news any longer, we've simply gotten used to the sound of shots, or so it seems.

Sunday update: someone on a motorbike, unrecognizable because of his visored helmet shot (but missed) the brother of a good friend of mine, in front of her eyes.
The guy is married, with young children and has no connection to the criminal world.

Hell, that's close by in more than one sense.

On the meaning of social statistics and discrimination

With your head in a freezer and your feet in an oven at the same time, you may feel quite well, on average, that is, were we to believe the numerical implications of social statistics.

I just read 15 million (fifteen million, no, not a numerical mistake) people in China are currently homeless as a result of typhoons. A catastrophe of a size we cannot even begin to imagine. I truly hope the Chinese have better logistics, welfare, contruction, health etc. etc. professionals than we have here in our northern district.

And on a much more local scale:

I also read in the weekend papers (our local "HaIr", to be exact), the Tel Aviv municipality has canceled 226 (two hundred twenty six) welfare and social work jobs over the last 5 years, a trend they intend to continue also during the coming year. It is impossible (for me with my limited means) to figure out how many of these jobs were canceled in Jaffa as the municipal statistics presented to the public, are constructed in such a way, it is impossible to analyze them by sub-district and the concept "south Tel Aviv" also includes the Shapira, Florentine, Kiryat Shalom and other neighborhoods, which are not part of Jaffa.
However, from my experience and talks to people here, i know a thing or two about what is happening in the Jaffa welfare scene.

Jaffa has e.g. two separate "advancement of youth" ("kidum noar) municipal systems, one for Arab speakers , the other one for Hebrew speakers. Both groups work with street youths, school drop-outs, kids in danger of becoming marginalised. They work only with kids until the age of 18. After that, the municipality provides nothing, zil, zero, efes (0 in Hebrew), sifer (0 in Arabic), who cares.... (sure there are a few NGO's doing a great job, but they are not part of the municipality). Apparently when these kids reach the age of eighteen, their problems are all of a sudden, as if by magic, solved. In this context, it is fair to state i do some work for one of the NGO's with girls and young women in the ages 18 - 25.
More over, the employees of the Jewish system do all have "steady jobs" as municipality employees, whereas the employees of the Arab system have temporary contracts for part time jobs, which can be deminished easily. And many have been made redundant, or have their jobs cut to part-time jobs over the last few years.
No doubt, there is distress and danger of marginalization for most of Jaffa's youth, both Jewish AND Palestinian (or Arab Israelis, as the media and the municipality like to call them).
Yet services for both groups are not the same.

Ideally, in a society which holds equal chances and social justice as important values, where the needs are biggest, is where you should spend the most. Thus, in south Tel Aviv in general and in Jaffa in specific, relatively more should be spent on welfare and (in) formal education than in, let's say Ramat Aviv Gimmel or Bavli or any of the other wealthy and rich neighborhoods in Tel Aviv's north.
Moreover, more should be spent in order to assist Jaffa's Palestinian population, as even the municipality admits, this is by far the weakest population in the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality (source: the municipal "Jaffa Conference for Wlefare and Education, held in December 2005).

However, the opposite appears to be the case. The poor get poorer and the services provided to them get worse, thereby deepening the problem. Especialy for children, this is detriment. Their chances are minimalized and a 3rd and 4th generation to poverty is in the making.

The cancellation of 266 welfare jobs does very little to solve that.

The welfare system in Jaffa is little more than a sad joke, no longer believed in by anyone, the population nor many of its demoralized employees.
The decisions to cut welfare jobs and where to cut them are part of a policy, someone makes those decisions and another group of people authorize them.
Is it social justice that guides them, or perhaps something else, such as the wish for continued support from their buddies in the northern neighborhoods where many of the policy makers live.

Thursday, August 24

Communal Taxis in Jaffa!!! Finally

Wonder of wonders, somebody "up there" read this morning's earler post about the bad service we Al Ajami residents receive from the Dan bus cooperative?
Waiting, yes, once more, for busline 46 to arrive and complaining just like all other people waitng with me, a yellow communal taxi passed by & stoppped.
Since 3 days communal taxi nr. 4A provides services to Jaffa residents! At the price of 5 NIS it is actually cheaper than the bus, which costs 5.10 NIS, moreover they stop on the route, wherever you want them to .
The taxi's leave from Balfour (Bat Yam) through Yefet street, make a turn through the flea market in Yehuda MeRaguza street, then left again at HaEshel (the Flea-market)
street, then the clock tower square, along the beach until Allenby and from Allenby to the Central bus station.

The driver happened to be the one of the big bosses of the communal taxi firm, Johanan Shapira who said that if the request will be big, they can drive every 5 minutes! So far people make little use of the new communal taxi line, as it is new and they are not yet aware of it.
He also told me about a similar experiment in north Tel Aviv that has proven to be very successful, but it depends on us, Jaffa residents, to make use of it the new line and turn it into a success.
In north Tel Aviv the line was successful and then by means of community action by r4esidents andf drivers, expanded to a larger area along the Dan bus routes, who suddenly started to feel the competition and improved their services. Now both the taxis and the Dan buses there compete, and the people living there profit form improved services.
The phonenumber of the communal taxi firm for any complaints or suggestions: 050-8330176 or 050-8330164

Dan buslines in Jaffa - Bad Service as a norm

I recall the days buses had those hard blue sticky plastic seats and you could smoke in the back. All windows were open, to let in some "fresh" air in our hot and H U M I D summer. There was usually only standing space and the busstop i hated most, was next to the fish stores in Jaffa, the overpowering fish smell adding that "little something" to the summer bus odors (i guess deodorant was very expensive at the time) , which just made me... ok i don't want to put you off just yet.

Today's Dan Cooperative Busses are red, usually the airconditioning works (except for the back part in the large "harmonica" busses), the seats are comfortable and some even have space for wheel chairs.


When the 2nd intifada erupted in 2000, there were a few demonstrations in Jaffa. We even heard about a stone thrown at a bus. In reaction, the Dan company changed its routes "for so called safety reasons" or some other funny explanation I don't remember.
As a result a large part of Al Ajami neighborhoodwas left bus-less, implying elderly, children and generally speaking all of us not owning or wishing to use a car, have to walk long distances to reach the closest bus stop.

Some modifications in the route have been made since then, and the Dan public transport cooperative denies we are receiving a collective punishment, but that's exactly what we perceive. Public transport deteriorated and keeps deteriorating.

In the mean time, the municipality started roadworks here and there in Jaffa (which have been going on for years now) and bus routes are modified on a whim, without informing the public, the clients, who often wait (in this very hot and humid weather) in busstops that were cancelled a week ago, but no body has bothered to put up a sign, so there we wait, the old and infirm, the poor, the children, in the hot summer sun.

Ofcourse in Jaffa a bus stop is in many cases just a sign, there are no seats, nor bus stop shelters, no shadow (Allthough i must thankfully admit this week they finally placed an actual real touchable, non virtual shelter close to my house, in Yefet street!), so yes, we all wait in the sun.

It gets worse, however. Once upon a time bus line 46 had a bus every few minutes, during peak hours. Lately i have found myself waiting over 30 minutes for the bus nr. 46. No, not a freak incident, everybody has noticed there are less buses at all hours of the day.

Bus line 10 (we only have 2 Dan lines in Al Ajami) has an old VERY bad record with a bus every 20 - 25 minutes, but we know that, so unless i absolutely must, i don't use that line, it's quicker to take 46 to wherever and hop on another busline, but now "our" 46 busline has started messing up.

Why? No one (except for the Dan Cooperative ofcourse) knows. Perhaps they even deny it, but, come on guys, we are your clients and don't think we don't "notice it", when we have to wait 30 minutes for the bl**** bus to arrive.

(and thanks for the new bus stop shelter at Yefet, we appreciate it, just make sure to keep working on the other ones as well)

Wednesday, August 16

Shooting, assault, it's all as usual in Jaffa

Just over these last 2 days: a guy was shot at ( in the Noga area), a car shot at in Zhihatly street and stabbing and fighting between groups of young men in Jerusalem boulevard, everything "back to normal" or perhaps just "as usual" in Jaffa.

In many of the cases the police is not at all involved. That's also part of "usual".

Tuesday, August 8

In Jaffa, the muse continues singing (for the time being)

Jaffa, prior to 1948, was Palestine's cultural center: printing houses. poetry-readings, performances, cinemas, newspapers etc. characterized Jaffa. Both Palestinian and Jewish artists worked in Jaffa.
All that was lost in 1948. The so-called "artists quarter" of Jaffa's old city is not much more than a fake, set up for tourists' sake and not a very successful one at that. True, it is a lovely area, but it's dead inhabited by ghosts and very wealthy tourists, some galleries and shops catering to foreigners looking for kitschy memos of their visit to the holy land.
The old city is too expensive for most artists and there isn't even one Palestinian living there these days.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Jaffa's old city was a quarter where the poor fishermen and harbor workers lived in cramped conditions. No runnig water, no electricity, but it was alive. children running and playing in the streets, women meeting each other for a chat while on their way to or from the market, or shouting from one rooftop to the other, while hanging the laundry. All that is gone now. The beauty is still there, but she's asleep and it is not clear if and when the prince will arrive.

But not all is bad.
The lighthouse gallery, located close to the harbor at 13 HaMigdalor street, opens a group exhibit this coming saturday evening, August the 12th at 20.00 o'clock.

The exhibion is being curated by Ruth Yakobson, the participating artists are:

Rachel Shavit, Itamar Siani, Edna Meron Wavner, Lihi Gandler Talmor, Dorit Yakobi, Yaffa Meir, Ami Shnar, Etty Mor, Ilana Appel Admon, Margarita Naot, Gilad Duvshani, Dror Almagor, Hanan Shafir, Shlomo Levi and Ayelet Frank.

Friday, August 4

Funny green container with disturbing information

Following Nasrallah's warning about launching missiles aimed at Tel Aviv, the municipality published a list of public shelters on its website. Currently the shelters are locked, but, so the municipality stresses, they will be opened according to the guidelines provided by "pikud ha'oref" (home command or some such).
I guess that means AFTER things start going badly (hoping ofcourse they won't). The shelter relatively close to my home is more than 1 minute of very quick running away. And i am a good sprinter. I heard we'll have a 1-minute warning, so that will leave me kind of outside.
The shelter's also locked. Over the years it has been turned into a youth club, well equipped with computers (connected to the internet, so assuming electricity and connection to be up during and after the attack, i can continue blogging in real time), airconditioning etc. and this being Jaffa, a series of very well locked doors. The key is with those responsible for the club, not the municipality. At least the shelter is clean and in a reasonable state. Who knows what the condition of other shelters in Jaffa is. Over time some became homes for the homeless, other good hiding places for drugs stashes and some others yet nice, fancy living quarters to our local rat population.

Suddenly some very large green containers started to sprout in Jaffa, carrying signs suggesting they are sort of, well, situation related. Ofcourse they are also locked, i guess one can call the phone numbers provided, when needed (hoping the system will not be dead and the mobile system overloaded by everyone and their grandmother calling to ask everyone else if they are OK.

I guess i like to think they won't be needed, so why bother. I hope i am right.

And i better be; it appears there is no one truly responsible for whatever happens to Israel's civilian population. The government does not wish to officially declare war nor emergency, as that would imply finanacial responsibilities rather not taken by the ministry of finance. Money's always first on their minds, "kibinimat the people". (how does one translate "kibinimat", anyone out there?)
Over the last several years so many services have been privatised, that well-meaning but not necessarily efficient NGO's have taken over many functions previously undertaken by the goverment. The state no longer is responsible. And that means you gotta be lucky or well-connected to receive good assistance. Often NGO's provide local or area-wide services. Sometimes by well trained volunteers which is ok, but what if one needs expert professional services? And, during time of war, what about the commitment of those well meaning volunteers? And the infrastructure supporting the services?
I do some work at a Jaffa NGO. We have no shelter, nor a windowless room. The one story building is old and there is no "mamad". The closest shelter is way further than 1 minute of very quick running. Would it be responsible to continue providing services under those conditions or would it be lacking responsibility to do so? After all, protection is far away. Both clients and staff would be in danger.
There is no minister of welfare and that says it all. Eighteen ministers, several portfolio-less, but no minister of welfare.
You think the US government's response to hurricane Katrina was inadequate? Wait till the shit hits the fan here (and it is hitting the fan big-time in the north of the country). For years we have been lulling ourselves to sleep thinking "private services" are much more efficient than state-run ones. I suppose there will be an enquiry committee which will publish a long report with many suggestions on improving services. The state nor the municipality see themselves as responsible for the welfare of the people.
And that's way beyond semantics.

And for the Hebrew challenged, the image shows a sign pasted on one of the large green containers. It states the container holds emergency equipment.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess or, why do we hate the Andromeda compound that much

Once upon a time, long ago, here in Jaffa, lived a beautiful young princess, named Andromeda. Her family loved her. She was pampered as befits a princess. A wonderful future awaited her, so all expected.

However, horrible times came upon Jaffa: a monster from the deep sea started to devour the city's fishermen, one after the other. Each morning, at sunrise, many little boats left Jaffa's natural harbor for another day of hard work. Every afternoon, when the little aflucas* came back to the harbor, there were some missing. Initially one, then two, but the monster became hungrier and the fishermen stopped going out to sea and the city's people became hungry as well; Something had to be done.
All kinds of tricks to submit the monster were tried, to no avail.
Only one thing would pacify the the monster: Andromeda.
To save the city from hunger, her father had her chained to the rocks at the harbor entrance as an offer. Thankfully Andromeda (as well as the city) were saved by a chivalrous hero who then married her and they lived happily ever after, had many children and Jaffa flourished. Until this very day, Andromeda's rocks are still there at the harbor's entrance; a reminder of the dangers at sea, a lovely bride and her hero. And Andromeda's great great great grandchildren (some at least, since 1948 many live in Jabaliya refugee camp and what is left of Beirut and Ein ElHilwe) still enjoy Jaffa's beautiful sea and harbor.

Fairytales are one thing, reality is somewhat different or, as Neri Livne put it in this week's Ha'aretz weekly rag:
"Wait, wait, don't rush home to write," said A., one of my colleagues at the newspaper. "Maybe a missile will fall on Tel Aviv and you won't have to do your column." That's not funny, I told him. "Okay, but if a missile does fall in Tel Aviv," he added, "at least let it fall on Kikar Atarim." Tel Aviv has loads of places that may be worth getting rid of: Kikar Atarim, City Hall, Dizengoff Square and especially that monstrous sculpture, the hotels on the beach, the Andromeda Hill project in Jaffa. "It's lucky," I said to him, "that at least it's impossible to destroy the underground transportation system here."
True, i had a laugh, and then i started to think. How is it, that so many of us in Jaffa automatically cringe when we hear the name "Andromeda Hill" and think of a medusa rather than a lovely princess?
The gated compound of that name, located at the northern end of Yefet street, was constructed some years ago, on land bought from the Greek Orthodox patriarchate by means of a sales procedure which has left, reportedly, quite a few questions unanswered and not according to the wishes of many from the local Greek Orthodox community: the majority of Jaffa's Christian Palestinians.

The compound has a wonderful view on Jaffa's harbor and the sea, which are no longer visible from Yefet street.
Right in the middle, there is a PUBLIC pedestrian pathway which is supposed to be open to the all of us. However the securityguard at the entrance doesn't allow anyone through, unless they live in the compound or have been invited by the compound's residents. So what if the municipal construction permits specifically state the path is public? The compound's wealthy inhabitants don't want us, locals, hanging around in the middle of their fancy 'hood.
Another one of the conditions of the building permit was the construction of an additional little park or kindergarden for the good of the Jaffa public as part of the project. So far, although people moved in to live there several years ago, the cornerstone for those buildings for the public good has not been laid.
Apparently the real estate company, who claim they have not yet finished building all buildings for which they have a permit, "will do so after completing construction of the private appartment buildings". Translation into Jaffaite: forget about our public commitments, we'll never completely finish the private construction, so just wait patiently, forever, we don't want you here, unless it is to clean the pool, the appartments or maintain the garden".

But there is more; The land was owned, as stated, by the Greek Orthodox community for future public developments, such as additions to the school, a kindergarden, a community center or perhaps a church, as needed by the people of that community, an option now forever lost.
The marketing of the gated Andromeda compound was more instructive than the project's developers perhaps intended: The saleslady after having stressed the beaulty and romance of the "oriental location" went on to stress its safety
"no Arabs live in this area and the municipality will not allow it, this is part of north Jaffa, the Maronite neighborhood, in which there will be no Arabs, just like the old city of Jaffa and in any case, we will not allow the local community to enter the compound which is guarded 24 hours a day by a private company, so you don't have to worry, you are completely safe here".
Yeah right, "Araber-rein" perhaps? Replace Arabs with "Jews" and Jaffa with, let's say an American, Canadian or European city name and the anti-defamtion league or the Wiesenthal Institute would be all over them, and righfully so.

Other than that, taste is ofcourse a very personal matter, but the massive, artificial stone covered orientalist kitschy constructions are as close to "originally Jaffaesque" as the appartment blocks in Jaffa Daled, Gimmel or "Shem HaGdolim" public housing estate in southern Givat Aliya (Jabaliya) neighborhood. I 'm sure they are comfortable inside and have a nice view and the people living in the compound enjoy a high standard of living with their private swimmingpool, healthclub and restaurant. The presumed architectural dialogue of Andromeda Hill with Jaffa's sad, but lovely, Old City takes place more in the realms of cultural imperialism than in those of "authenticity" and (i'm on dangerous ground here) good taste.

But there is more: by constructing a gated (and well guarded) compound for the very wealthy only, another dialogue, or perhaps a lack of dialogue, has become more than obvious: the social gap between the fantasy-land compound (them) and us, living in real Jaffa (the Jaffa of poverty, of bad social and educational services, of violence, crimes and drugabuse) is wider than ever.
The ideas of "bringing strong populations to the weak neighborhoods" doesn't work, when the gaps are this big and gates and guards create high physical borders, when the land was taken from the local community and when the compound's inhabitants are not a part of Jaffa, but a separate an alien entity in our midst.

Moreover, the "strong people, living in their multimillion houses have driven up the prices, and the local people can no longer buy appartments for their children, who are forced to live in "illegal" constructions or move to other areas in Jaffa or to Lod or Ramle. And perhaps that is what the municipality has in mind, perhaps that is what gentrification is all about: get rid of the poor (who will become somebody else's responsibility) and make it nice an cozy for the wealthy. That's why i don't like that piece of prime property named after a beautiful Jaffa princess, Andromeda.

No, i don't want any missiles destroying Andromeda or any other part of Jaffa, i believe in non violence. I'm sure the flats in Andromeda all have mamadim (shelters) unlike the place where i live. Maybe the Andromeda people can make something good and welcome Jaffa's poor from the shelterless housing estates to their mamadim?

*an afluca is a small traditional fishermen's boat, they can still be seen in Jaffa's harbor to this very day.


Wednesday, August 2

"Days of Darkness" by Gideon Levy (Ha'aretz)

In war as in war: Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized Israeli society in recent years is intensifying. The home front is cut in half: the north suffers and the center is serene. But both have been taken over by tones of jingoism, ruthlessness and vengeance, and the voices of extremism that previously characterized the camp's margins are now expressing its heart. The left has once again lost its way, wrapped in silence or "admitting mistakes." Israel is exposing a unified, nationalistic face....

Gideon Levy expresses it much better than I, yet the article reflects exactly what i feel, so:

Read the full article in Ha'aretz