Friday, December 28

Another murder attempt in Jaffa, about 30 minutes ago

A short burst of machine gun fire. A dog started barking. Everyone ran outside.
Several gun shot holes in the car. The youngest Sakhafi boy, they say.
I don't know his medical condition, but the condition of the car leaves very little to guess.
Jaffa.... Yet another victim of the ongoing violence

Thursday, December 27

The "Jaffa Conference"

Today the "Jaffa Conference" will open at Jaffa's Arab Jewish Community Center, aka our local matnas.
There isn't a real connection between Jaffa and the conference's name, apart from the fact that it takes place in Jaffa. there is almost nothing on the program that has to do anything with Jaffa.
This year's topic is "mixed cities". Right, mixed cities. So how come there was nothing in the original program about what is happening in Jaffa? In the end, under pressure, the organizers agreed to have Sami Bukhari from the popular committee against home demolitions participate in one of the panels. In the light of what happened this week in Kfar shalem, our future looks bleak and scary.
What do they mean when they say "mixed city"? Is that a phase from pre 1948, pre Naqbe Palestinian Jaffa to an all Jewish Jaffa, the future "dream" of the developers and real estate creeps?

Or is it something else?

Tuesday, December 25

And in the mean time in Kfar Shalem.... 30 homeless families

Last the night the police arrested the men from Kfar Shalem. I never knew that preventive arrest was legal here. After all, they had (not) yet done a thing. So much for democracy. I alsways thought arrests could only be made after one has been declared a suspect of a crime actually committed!. But i suppose the police wanted to make certain their job would be easy today. After all, in the past when they came to carry out an eviction order, they killed one of the young men, who had climbed on the roof of his home, in order to prevent its destruction. The men was shot by the police. Point blank. I call it murder.
So they arrested the men. To make today's work easier i suppose.

Kfar Shalem is located in today's south Tel Aviv on the ruins of a Palestinian village, Kufr Salame. Kufr Salame was left in 1948 by its original inhabitants who were extradited. The naqbe, the catastrophe.

In the late forties - early fifties poor migrants were told to go there and live in the houses that stood empty. They settled in the houses, planted gardens , had children and slowly Kfar Shalem as it was now called, turned into a neighbourhood. A poor one, but a lively and happy one.

Then real estate developers became interested and, after a long, fruitless legal struggle, the people were ordered to move out. The land had been bought and they should find themselves somewhere else to live.

This morning the bulldozers arrived and thirty families, many with young children, became homeless.

I'm sure Ron the Ratty One is happy!
My heart is with the families of Kfar Shalem.

Saturday, December 22

Carnival censorship, "We must be cheerful, mustn't we?"

Yefet street is pretty much packed. A few local people from Jaffa, the majority from elsewhere, parents, children. The weather 's nice. "Gan HaShenaym" is packed. Kids sit on the grass, watching a theatre performance. The shelter normally operated by Sedaka Reut, a Palestinian Jewish youth movement who use it as a music studio for Jaffa's children, has been turned into a "hapak" the Hebrew acronym for "heder pikud kidmi", the front-line war room, all nicely along the militarized lines of Israel's civil society. Language is a give away. Police men and women run around. There are a few border police men as well and of course loads of employees from private guard companies.

Along Yefet there are stalls on both sides, selling "pitchifkes", small, gaudy and too expensive. The stalls belong to people from elsewhere. Except for one or two, run by stores along the way, none are local. The restaurants are packed. At least they are doing good business.
We didn't want to ruin the festivities for our local business women and men, so decided to put up small posters along the way, reminding the visitors of approaching home destructions in Jaffa. The maps are similar to those handed out by the municipality, only instead of dots showing the locations of the participating restaurants, we put little bulldozers.
Someone took the posters down, systematically. One by one. Only in a few cases, they didn't do their job in a thorough manner. The maps, showing little bulldozers where houses are about to be demolished have been torn down, but not entirely.
We must be cheerful after all; Ron Huldai, the mayor, wishes us all a happy holiday.

So what if 496 families will soon be homeless? Be Happy!!

Friday, December 21

Carnival, festival or what?

Tomorrow, between 9.30 - 18.00 there is suppsed to be a carnival in Jaffa. In Ajami, to be precise, on Yefet (Hilwe) Street.
In Haifa they have the festival of festivals in Wadi Nisnas, celebrating Eid elAdha, Hanukkah and Christmas. The Tel Aviv municipality apparently thought that what's good for Haifa, is good also for Jaffa, and decided to have a street party. Especially with municipal elections coming closer, Ron Huldai, the major, needs to show he means well, after all, he latest remarks about sustainable housing were less than convincing for Jaffa's less affluent people.
So we're gonna get a party, organised by the municipality.

Quite truthfully, i like parties. And street-parties are even better. Besides, Ajami's businesses can do with some additional income.
But there is something very cynical about this one.
Faced with 496 eviction and demolition orders, we have little reason to be happy in Jaffa. And the municipality is behind much of this. It's part of their policy.

So we'll let the visitors know, we'll use this opportunity to tell them about what is really happening in Jaffa, so they'll look beyond the Christmas trees and children's drawings gracing the streets of Ajami. I hope the visitors will receive at least some understanding of what is truly happening here.



Thursday, December 6

Bread & Tears

Last night i went to buy few things at my local grocery store (yes, in Jaffa they're open most of the night as well). I was chatting with Hussein, the owner.
Hussein only works the night shift now. He spends his days working in a soup kitchen for the poor. Husseins grocery was robbed a few times over the last few years, so Hussein got himself a gun. Someone must have ratted. The police came, found the gun and the court sent Hussein to a few months of "volunteering in the community", instead of a prison sentence.
A woman in her fifties came to pay for a bag of milk and a "standard" bread (lehem ahid). When she heard the price, she was certain there Hussein had a mistake, but no, now that the price of standard bread is no longer controlled, the price has gone up to 6 NIS.
I asked Hussein, as i thought the price of standard bread was still controlled. "No, they demand much more now, i don't make money on it", he answered.
The woman asked if she could buy half a bread. The Ministry of Health doesn't allow that for some reason or other, hygiene apparently. She asked for the price of the bread she was holding close once more. "Six shekel", Hussein said. She put back the bread. "I don't have enough money", she said, "how can they, six shekel for a bread." She paid for the milk and then started crying. Hussein added the bread to her bag and told her to go (Hussein's is like that, he's never refused when i asked for his assistance for this or that family i came across, i guess his grocery store makes money because of his wife and daughter who run it during the daytime hours). The woman left, a bag of bread and milk kept close, into the cold night.

Wednesday, December 5

Horace of the Fleas

It's located at the end (or the beginning) of Jaffa's fleamarket area in an old building on 34 "Oley Zion" street.
The renovation of the place is stunning. A small inner courtyard with a little fountain is perfect for a morning coffee, arriving with a nice, tiny, spicy made-on-the-premises-cookie.
The iron work along the stairs is lovely and so is the furniture, the crockery, more or less everything in the place.
But cafes are about drink and food. After all, some of Tel Aviv's more stylish and fashionable places are gorgeous. It's their food and the service that leave much to be wanted. Which make me run away never to return. Horace is different, besides being in Jaffa.

Horace is in a class of its own. Which is why i fee like keeping quiet about it. So not too many people will find out and spoil the fun. But then, this blog has a select group of readers ( as in small) and i'll share it with them, with you, as a small Hanuka/Eid ElAdha/ Christmas gift.

Jaffa has a great new cafe to visit:"Horace". Not only when there is no place at Pua's. It's worth while a special trip, e.g. when you're in the mood to indulge yourself.
Although there isn't much choice for a vegetarian like myself, the small selection is wonderful and of excellent quality as well as nicely served. And yes, i appreciate beautiful plates. Snob or not? I'm not a food critic and totally unable to describe the great tasting salad i had in words.

And NO i'm not being paid for this small article. I simply fell in love with the place, its food and especially the small courtyard. And i like sharing good things with a few friends.
So whoever lives in Jaffa or the close surroundings...

Eid elAdha (as if) by Charles Dickens

Sineal* is in debt. She was arrested yesterday night. Why?
Well, she has debts and she cannot pay them.
Sineal has 10 children. Eight are still at home. The youngest is in kindergarden. Sineal worked as a cleaner until her hands simply gave up one day. She suffered from excruciating pains and became incapable of lifting even light objects. Two complicated hand operations later she became unable to work and therefore applied for social security disability. Ofcourse she didn't have private insurance. That's a luxury not extended to simple workers.
Her disability money-claim has not yet gone through, burocracy, as usual.
In the mean time she started receiving basic welfare. For some reason only 500 NIS a month (that's less than 200$), but with her child-allowance she somehow managed to survive.
Then all of a sudden the social insurance institute stopped paying her at all. The case is pending in court. It may take many months until things will clear up.
She and her 8 kids stuck without money. The electricity was cut off 2 weeks ago. The neighbors assist her with a small cable from their home, so she has some light at least.
Yesterday night the police came and arrested her for debts. The youngest children cried but no one really cared very much. The older girls cried and tried to get help.
With the aid of a lawyer, Sineale managed to go back home today. For the time being. She's been given 30 days to take care of her debts. If not, she will be arrested again.
The judge, a woman, was actually friendly and somewhat understanding. But the law is the law. and debts need to be paid.
I wonder why that doesn't apply to the social security institute. Why don't they pay their debt to Sineal? She always paid them while she could still work.
I have no idea how Sineal will be able to take care of her debts in 30 days. She doesn't have the money to buy food for her large family and herself.
Soon it will be Eid elAdha. But not for Sineal. Neither for her children.
*Sineal is not her real name. The story is true.

Monday, December 3

Ajami's Welfare Office moving even further

Yesterday i wrote about the bad office conditions of Jaffa's welfare workers (their office is located in a petrol station). They were supposed to move back to their old office.
I support the social workers in this case. Their conditions WERE horrid. But the old building (which was designed for its purpose, a welfare office, has become dilapidated in the few months it stood empty.
So in reality they will move this week to the Yafo Daled quarter, Rubinstein Street. They think they will not have telephones, but only "mirs" cellphones.

That may sound trivial, but in reality it will make them even less available to Ajami's elderly, handicapped and large families. there is no direct public transport to Yafo Daled form Ajami and it is rather far to walk for the elderly or small children.
Many of the poor have no phone or a prepaid-card cell phone on which they often can only receive calls. Calling "mirs" is expensive. In all of Ajami there is one working public phone. And it is on Yefet.
So the welfare office will be even less available to Ajami's most needy of its services.
Brilliant.

Sunday, December 2

Ajami's welfare office moving out of Ajami

Jaffa has 2 municipal welfare offices, the main one located on Jerusalem boulevard in what once was Jaffa's municipality building (prior to 1948), the other one, serving the Ajami area, in the "Talal" building on Yefet Street.

The building, also housing Jaffa's Sharia (Islamic) court and the "Mishlama", our local governance (not my word, that's what they call themselves in English) is a drab office building constructed on top of a petrol station.
The conditions in the building are far from satisfying: crowded, with little privacy and terrible air-conditioning, leading to petrol fumes in many of the rooms facing the street. No doubt unhealthy for both the employees and their clients). The rooms of the management face the sea (a lovely view, by the way, also of some of Jaffa's graveyards). I agree with the employees the building is simply not fitting. Indeed. a poor building for a poor service.
The municipality intends to send the employees in the course of this week to various municipal offices. The previous building (in nice 2-floor structure with a wonderful inner courtyard, planned for its function as welfare office) will be renovated at a cost of some 4.3 million $.
And Ajami's residents in need of the office's services? Well, they'll have to walk all the way to Jerusalem Boulevard (Nouzha) or take 2 buses, as there is no direct bus line connecting the two areas. Especially women with young children and the elderly (the majority of the office's clients) will have a hard time getting there.
There must be a better alternative. In Ajami.
It appears the municipality's economic interests are top of the list, rather than serving Jaffa's community's needs. What else is new?

Saturday, November 24

Mother earth took me for a ride.

The truth? I didn't feel this one. That is, not when it happened, which was apparently sometime very early this morning, just after midnight, when yours truly was asleep.
However when i woke up there was something faintly disturbing: my bed, which was located, when i went to sleep last night, next to the southern wall of my bedroom, was right in the middle of my room when i woke up....
My bed consists out of a big, fairly heavy, wooden platform, placed on large industrial type wheels instead of legs (my design). When not on its breaks, it rides very smoothly, e.g. to the balcony when it's too hot to sleep inside.
But still, the earthquake did its thing and there i was, waking up in the centre of my bedroom, having been taken for a ride by mother earth, in my sleep.

Tuesday, November 20

Earthquake?

Oops, so this wasn't a heavy truck passing by after all.
The epic centre was north of the Dead Sea, on the Syro African rift.

Small one. This time.


I guess we're counting on our luck more than anything else. But at some point luck tends to run out and quake-resistant construction standards exist (for new building projects, that is), but are not checked as very few local councils and municipalities employ specialists in the field.

So when the big one comes (according to geologists and sysmologists this is not an "if", but a "when") there will of course be a lot of damage and then an official investigation committee to investigate why the standards were not adhered to.

Wonderful as usual.


Intissar

Intissar* is 20 years old. When she's in a good mood, there's a big smile on her round face. But she's hardly ever happy.
She's been homeless for most of the last two years. Living on the streets, occasionally staying with families who feel sorry for her and try to help her.
Intissar has no family. Her father died, 2 years and 2 months ago, as she told me yesterday, Intissar has a very good memory for dates. Her mother suffers from mental retardation and lives in a special home by court order. She cannot take care of Intissar, who herself is lightly retarded as well. Intissar suffers from a personality disorder and is supposed to take psychiatric medicine.
Due to her many suicide attempts, the doctor doesn't want to give Intissar all her of medicine in one go. But there's no one who can take the responsibility of giving her her daily dose. As a result, Intissar suffers badly and occasionally becomes very violent. Which makes it even more difficult (for help providers) to assist her as they are the first Intissar selects as victims. In a simple sense Intissar is right about that selection: no one has really helped her (although, to be honest, people have tried over the last 2 years), so she is right to feel very frustrated.

Intissar receives monthly social security payments, which she spends on cigarettes and candies, two things she cannot live without. She spends the monthly money she receives (1800 NIS, about 420$) ) very quickly, within a few days. After that she has to survive the rest of the month on nothing...
Intissar doesn't have the skills for living a normal life independently. She she's left to suffer on Jaffa's streets.
Until about a year ago, Intissar who grew up in total institutions (for people mental retardation), was recognised as a woman with mental retardation. In spite of professional recommendations and psychological testing, Intissar was declared "not retarded" by a committee. As a result she lost her right to a large number of services for mentally challenged people. She was also declared, by implication, mentally competent to independently live her own life. The only problem: she doesn't have the skills to do so.
And there is no one in her family to assist her. Her sisters are all minors, living in boarding schools and with foster families.
Over the last 2 years Intissar was out on the streets for most of the time. She also spent a few days in a mental hospital, from which she was released as she is not mentally ill, in a regular hospital (both after suicide attempts), a hostel for mentally ill people (from which she was kicked out after 2 months, after she attacked someone of the staff) , in prison after she was arrested, for violence.
Yes, Intissar has problems and sometimes her behaviour is VERY problematic.
However, the prolonged total lack of care is responsible for most of that behaviour. She's frustrated, helpless and very very angry.
Over the last year or so, 5 cars and a business have been registered in her name by people wishing to abuse her. They do so by not paying taxes and insurance, driving on toll road nr. 6, not paying parking tickets etc. One of the cars was caught smuggling workers from the occupied territories. The police questioned Intissar and that is how we found out about the cars. The problem is that the social security payments may be stopped as a result of those cars and the business.
Truthfully, some people have tried to assist her. But there is no one, except the official welfare system, who cab take the responsibility for Intissar. And they simply refuse to do so, stating she is just like any other young woman. She should take a job, rent a room and help herself.
They forget, that she IS mentally challenged and doesn't have the skills to do so unaided.
Intissar is a big woman. She's very strong. And very angry.

I contacted BiZhut, the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities. Their spokesperson tried to interest the media in Intissar's story. But there was little interest. It appears they know of no other way to assist her.

One day things could go very wrong, someone might be seriously hurt and Intissar might find herself in prison. This did can be prevented.
If social services will do their job. If...


* Not her real name, the story is true however.

Monday, November 19

Jaffa Housing Rights - Another site dedicated to the struggle

The Popular Committee for Housing Rights in Jaffa opened its official blog at YaffaStruggle

I'm happy i'm not the only one :)

Saturday, November 17

Jaffa Architecture Revisited

This week's Ha'aretz property weekly supplement carries and article about that infamous Jaffa abomination the "Givat Andromeda" gated community.

This week's Arab language weekly "Al Medina" carries a front page article about the Jaffa H. Family, titled "Save Us". They are fighting to continue living in their home, the home the H. family has owned literally for over a century.
A sad coincidence; Ahmed H. used to be a guard at the Andromeda Compound, safeguarding the property of its wealthy inhabitants. He personally knows many of Andromeda's wealthy inhabitants, but i wonder if even one of them will be willing to assist him and his family in their legal fight against Amidar.

The housing & property weekly of Ha'aretz is usually rather capitalist in its outlook. Property value, how to make money out of your property, how to receive more rent, raising young property tycoons to the status of cultural heroes etc. characterizes its writing. The paper hardly ever carries an article in which housing is seen as a basic human right. Nor it is ever suggested society as a whole has a responsibility to provide decent sustainable housing to its members. The point of view is always that of the owner, the tycoon, the guy (hardly ever there's a woman involved, gender is another weak point of this particular rag) who's making the bucks. Never that of the people paying over 50% of their income for a shitty little room in a sub-standard housing estate about to fall down.

The Andromeda article is different. It tries to critically approach the social meaning of the gated communities.
Architect Sharon Rotbard (author of "Black City White City", when will that important book be translated into English?) is quoted towards the end of the article. He wonders if it is at all possible for a Jewish architect to design and construct any property in Jaffa without being unjust, without feeling at least quite uneasy.
Rotbard is both right and wrong. (I do not know, of course, if he was quoted correctly). The problem is not the ethnic origin of the architect, but rather a question of true ownership of the particular piece of land, as well as who is the client.

If in each new complex constructed in Jaffa, 30% of the flats would go towards sustainable housing at a reasonable price for Jaffa's Palestinian and Jewish poor population the situation would look very differently.
If property developers would, in order to receive their building permits, (in addition to the 30% social housing) have to donate to the community in the form of constructing a youth club, a school, a day-centre for the elderly or a clinic for drug addicts, i wouldn't feel very bad about new constructions, designed by Chinese, Jews or Iranian architects or who ever.
Ofcourse only on land truly owned by the developer, not on land confiscated frmo its original owners in 1948 or after that.
An something else, the developers should be made to actually carry out their social obligations: until now the Andromeda developers have not constructed the children's playground they are supposed to develop. Nor is the compound open to the public the way it is supposed to be according to court order.

When you are rich, maybe the law doesn't apply to you..




Saturday, November 10

Jaffa's Garbage Mountain revisited

Jaffa's garbage mountain is continually changing. About to be turned into a park, "Midron Yafo", huge quantities of dumped building rubble are ground into smaller stones and then into sand, to be used in the construction of the Tel Aviv local train rail road.Tens of thousands of truck loads are being carried off. The mountain's surface keeps changing literally from day to day.

The garbage mountain covers much of what used to be Jaffa's beach. Jaffa's thousands of destroyed buildings were simply dumped into to sea to create and artificial piece of land on which villa's for the wealthy were to be constructed. That plan didn't work out as the Jaffa population took the municipality to court and won.
The mountain consists of rubble, garbage and a plethora of nasty stuff, such as asbestos. The grinding process releases particles into the air and the nice sea breeze carries it into our homes and lungs. Even dusting twice a day is useless. A thin layer of the nasty stuff covers the furniture before you're done dusting.

Yet the mountain also has a strange and dramatic beauty to it. An ever changing wasteland high baove what used to be our beach.
They are turning back part of the mountain into a beach once more. The waves and the sea sand grind the bits and pieces, creating a dazzling colourful mosaic of what once were the the floor tiles of Jaffa's houses.

The Garbage Mountain Today:


The Garbage Mountain about a year ago:





Tuesday, November 6

Ahmad was released from prison 2 days ago

Ahmad is 20 years old. A bit stocky. Always smiling. The neighbourhood's prankster. Playing practical jokes on everybody, all the time.
I have slightly known Ahmad for many years. "Hyperactive", they said about him at school. Always on the move, always doing something, always causing everybody to laugh. The neighbourhood's clown.
And then a joke went wrong. Very wrong.
Had Ahmad lived in north Tel Aviv, the fancy lawyer his parents would have taken for him, would have gotten him off. Perhaps a few hours of volunteering somewhere, as an educational punishment.

No one could believe it, when Ahmad was sent to jail for playing a practical joke on a taxi driver. The least of all, Ahmad himself.
But Ahmad, with no previous criminal record, a good boy from a nice Jaffa family, was sent to jail. For playing a practical joke. Ahmad, the innocent clowning kid with the smile on his face. Playing football in Rifat Turk's soccer school, participating in educational camps, in spite of his learning disability. A good and positive boy, growing up under difficult conditions.

Not to an "easy" jail, for first-time offenders, but to one of the tougher places of Israel's prison system, Atlit (or Carmel Prison as it is called these days, as if a fancy name can hide the misery behind the high white-washed concrete, barbed wire covered walls).

Why? Hell knows, or perhaps the shabak.
i wonder what prison has done to him. He looks older, more grown up. He's become religious. But he still has that same smile, that makes you laugh, the minute you see him.

This evening there will be a party for him. Mabruk, kid. I hope i can still call you "kid".


One street in Ajami

I'm slowly, very slowly, getting used to my new home and street.
The view: wonderful, in all directions. My direct neighbors: lovely people. The house-owner: dunno yet. A little strange, but much less worse than the creepy couple from the previous place in Shapira, my two-hour event outside of Jaffa (for those following my legal battle with said couple: no i still have not received back the rent - their lawyer tries to make me pay for the renovvations. The appartment was declared dangerous to live in and in "danger of collapse", while i had the keys, ergo "it's my problem & responsibility"). But then, it would be difficult to actually be worse. And believe me, i'have met some horrid landlords over the year.
The scarcity of housing in Jaffa has led to the worst profiteering in the field. There apparently is a never-ending collection of worms trying to make some quick money.

What else about the new place? OK, the water is a mere trickle, the electricity more than a little shaky. The doors of the kitchen-cupboards keep falling off and opening spontaneously due to the strange angle of said cupboards (or perhaps a poltergeist?).
The previous inhabitant had airconditioning in what is now my very large and airy, well-lighted bedroom. He took the airco with him and there is a huge gap in the wall. The current owner is in no hurry of repairing it. Oops. It might rain tomorrow. The blessed "yore" is about to arrive.

My street: There is no pedestrian pavement. The are several large and smaller and smallish holes everywhere in the thin layer of tarmack covering part of the street's surface, true third world style. Thanks municipality! I wonder if it will turn into a muddy torrent when the first rain will come down. We are always "surprised" by the first rain and the damage it does to our streets.

My street: there are two drugdealers, operating openly. Everybody knows. Nobody talks. Jaffa.

My street: While walking home, i'm offered two plates of food to take with me, by my neighbors. "Take it Yudit, i just made it, "kusa mahshi". Mine is the best, so they say in the family. Eat it quickly, for it is still hot." "We got oil from the village. It's the first of the year. Here, taste some, it's the best. There is no better oil than this".

I taste it all. It cannot get any better.


Friday, November 2

Ajami, ajami, what's in a name

"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over an Ajami nor an Ajami has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action."

Muhammad, from his last speech to the Muslims

Ajami is the name of my neighbourhood. Names of Jaffa's old neighbourhoods are often derived of the names of the tribal families who first built their homes, or owned the lands on which they were constructed. No one actually decided to provide the neighbourhoods to be given those names, or they somehow developed over time.

Many streets in Jaffa did not have names. There were simply known, as often happens in villages and small towns, "next to the orange grove of e.g. the El Abid tribe or of the "AlMasris" or of the "Boukharys". The names point to the origin of the families: the El Abids were black Bedouin apparently brought over as slaves (abid) from Soudan in much earlier ages, the Masris came from Egypt, the Bukharys from Boukhara, many centuries ago.

During the 19th century Jaffa developed very quickly not only due to natural births and immigration from abroad (especially from Egypt), but mostly due to internal migration, when whole families from Nablous, Jerusalem, Um Al Fakhm and other places in the north of the country and Bedouin families from its southern regions moved to Jaffa.
Each family acquired lands, or rented them for many years from the owners, and settled as a tribal family on those lands, which then received the family's name; "the neighbourhood of so & so". Usually families married "within" according to the custom of the land, and the sons settled with their brides in the family compound or close to it. Over the time the neighbourhood developed which was then named for the named family.

Al Ajami started to be constructed as a neighbourhood for wealthy Muslim families in that time. In Arabic, "ajami" is someone who's silent, doesn't speak Arabic well or a stranger. In early times it was used to indicate a Muslim of non Arabic speaking origin, e.g. from Persia.

Over time it developed as a family name. I suspect the ElAjamis were the owners of the land or perhaps one of the first families who started to construct their homes on it. Thus the neighbourhood received its name.

However,

Monday, October 29

Back in Ajami

So i left for about two hours. Yes, for two whole hours, 120 minutes, i lived in Shapira neighbourhood. I moved 50 very heavy crates of books, all my camera gear and very little furniture to a new place in Shapira.
On my way into that neighbourhood i met a funeral on the street.

Then we carried my stuff up to the third floor, to a tiny flat. And that is when the balcony started falling of the wall and the ceiling, well, caving in.

So i moved out. Lived with my friends Daoud and Liza in Jaffa, until i found my new flat, in Ajami, some 100 meters from the previous one. 2 large rooms, a very big balcony, nice neighbours. In Ajami. Even the price is reasonable.
OK, the bathroom is small, very small, as in "sit on the toilet while showering". In addition, there is no light in the kitchen, nor in the bathroom. And there is exactly one electricity point in all of the place. But hey, i'm back in Ajami, next to the sea.
I have a great view.

NOW i need to concentrate on getting the rent back from the owner of the Shapira flat. So what if the municipality declared that flat unsafe and dangerous. He doesn't think he has to reimburse me.
But hey, i'm back in Jaffa!!!

Saturday, September 22

Yaffawiye Blues

No posts for almost a month. I'm in real distress. Yes, me. I'm losing my home.

The owner of my apartment is selling the place. It's the second time this happens to me in less than two years. Loosing my home to the Jaffa real estate market. To the sharks.
The owner of my home works in a lawyers office and has been known to sue people for very little reason. (My neighbours for instance have been sued by the lady), so i have to be careful about what i write here. I cannot really afford to write about what i truly feel about her. But you guys can guess it, i suppose.

I CAN write however, about what it means to look for a reasonable flat on the housing market. Nothing fancy, just a simple place to live in, which will not cost more than half my monthly income.

And while looking for a place for myself, i also run around with the "H" family (about whome i have written) and with the "K" family, who received eviction and demolition orders concerning the homes they have lived in since birth. I run around with them from layer to layer, to the courts, tracing and finding ancient documents in archives, in order to find proof they and their families have lived in the house from before 1948.
It takes up much time and energy. But what makes it more difficult, is that i am, on the practical level, in the same boat. Until now, i myself never felt like a victim. But the huge real estate monster is devouring me, piece by piece.

So, here goes, "looking for an apartment in south Tel Aviv Jaffa".

There are various websites dedicated to finding rental apartments and on first sight they don't look bad: check the right parameters and a whole list of flats in the selected area appears on screen in milliseconds. However, more than half of the flats are rented out within a few hours of being published.
All owners insist during the initial phone talk, their flats are beautiful, with lots of light, good airflow etc. Prices are up in the sky, in comparison to a few years ago.
So i make an appointment to come and view the flat , on X-day, between 10 and 10.30. Arriving a few minutes early, a group of about 20 (sometimes 30) prospective tenants wait for the owner. Everybody is friendly and polite, but the truth is, we are in a run against each other.
The owner shows the place. True, there IS an air-conditioner, but it is ancient and has not worked for a few years now. Yes, it used to be a three room apartment, but now it has been cut up into a 2 tiny two-room ones, a thin prefab wall functioning as border between the two housing units.
OK, the kitchen is really a kitchenette and there is no room nor tap for a washing machine. No, the old cupboard MUST stay in the flat, it's a heritage from the owner's great grandmother and cannot be throw out. The new thin paint layer does little to hide the huge humidity spots. The paint is already flaking. Two windows cannot be opened, because the neighbor built an addition so close to it, that the walls simply block the window. There is still a 5-cm space for some fresh air though between that wall and the window, but, no way to open it.

But, people are desperate, so the bidding starts. The ad said the rent is 500$ a month, but someone offers 550$. Someone else 575$. Then the current tenant (who is still living there but will leave in a few days) states, that the flat will go to who buys his furniture from him for a mere 2000 NIS. Stuff he probably found on the street, by the looks of it. I am all for recycling, but this is outrageous. Someone agrees. The "lucky" new inhabitant has agreed to pay $570 for a tiny square meters flat, one bedroom, a small living room with kitchenette, a tiny shower and toilet combo. It's dingy, it's hot and stuffy as well as quite dark. There is no airflow as 2 windows cannot be opened. Another shark is very happy.
The new tenant has also paid 2000 NIS for stuff she'll probably put out in the street prior to moving in. She visibly pregnant and urgently needs a place for herself and her baby, she will be paying more than 60% of her monthly income to the happy shark

Once upon a time most of the flats on the rental market, would be places people inherited from a grandparent who died. Until deciding what to do with it, they would rent it out for a few years. the price would be reasonable. Everybody knows that people aren't rich. There was no feeling of abuse.
Today's rental market is completely different. Wealthy rats buy up every house on the market. they sub-divide it into tiny units making use of the cheapest building materials available. Then they rent the flats out for the highest price they can possibly get. Prices have sky-rocketed while salaries have stayed the same. Electricity, water and municipal taxes have gone up as well, so people pay more than 50% of their small income just to have a roof above their heads. There is little money for food and other basics, and no money for any small luxuries, which once were occasional treats. Even buying a new pair of glasses or going to the dentist no longer belong to things one can afford.
In the mean time, the rats are getting richer and richer.

There is no-rent control. There is no protection. Contracts are draconian. I have met rats who demand a 4000 NIS cash payment in addition to the rent as "security". for what? Only hell knows, after all, the bills (electricity, municipality etc.) are in the inhabitant's names and the flat is empty. Just another way of making quick money. Oh, the wonders of the free economy.
Today is Yom Kipur, a day of fasting and of repentance . But i feel very angry and frustrated.

Ha'aretz newspaper continues its stories of the great new option of the Jaffa real estate market and the tons of money to be made on it. The greedy rats are all over the place in their fancy SUV jeeps and Mercedes Benz cars. Happy and pleased with themselves. "Such excellent business opportunities", while toasting once more over their fancy dinners at "Rafael's" or in the "Kantina", or maybe even over a plate of humus at "Abu Hassan's" in order to feel "local".
No one mentions the underside. No one.








Friday, August 24

Palestinian Culture Festival in Jaffa

Fireworks, bagpipes, children with colourfully painted faces and sticky hands running around and finally Hiba Bathish and her band performing Om Kolthoum's "Inta Omri" as well as Palestinian music: the opening night of the three-day "Palestinian Culture Festival" in Jaffa.

An Arab language book fair, a small exhibit of traditional Palestinian hand embroidered dresses and artifacts as well as historical photographs and workshops (ceramics, darbukka, henna body painting etc.) games for children and nightly performances, the program is rich and offers many choices. And of course there is food. Lots of it. From traditional za'atar pitas to the regular roasted affairs and sweets.

The festival takes place in the small park between Yefet 83 and Shivtey Israel 70, behind the basket ball court, from yesterday till Saturday night.
The book-fair is held in a hall usually used as a weightlifting class, where the ancient black and white posters of once famous weightlifters compete with Korans, DIY books, health books, literature and poetry, children's literature and more.

The festival has been produced by Norman Issa of the Al Seraya Theatre (Jaffa) with the aid of the Jaffa Tel Aviv municipality.

Today the central performance will be by Palestinian Israeli rapper Tamer Nafer and "Dam".
Tomorrow Samah Zakut (Saz"), Zhagal (Ganem Alasdi) and Amin Sayg. The Jaffa scouts bands will be performing as well.


Tuesday, August 21

Demonstration in Solidarity with the Abu Saif Family

The Abu Saif family owns an orange grove in Jaffa. It's where they live, in small shacks among what's left of the trees.
It's where many of the sons and daughters of the extended family work, in car workshops, carpentries etc.
They have lived there since way before the naqbe, before 1948. Grand father Abu Sayf stayed behind when many of the family fled to the Gaza strip.and defended his grove. After a short while some of the family managed to come back and life seemed to be going on, more or less, like before.
Over time the state and the municipality have tried to take away parts of the orchard. Sometimes they succeeded, and, in spite of the promises, the family was not paid for the lost land. Now they try to take away even more land.

The popular committee against the home demolitions and evictions has decided to join the Abu Sayfs tomorrow at 17.00 in a demonstration taking place at the corner of "HaMahrozet" and Rubinstein Street.

Be there, if you care about justice and housing in Jaffa. If you wish al of Jaffa's sons and daughters to be able to live in Jafa. If you do not want Jaffa to turn into a paradise for the wealthy only.

Thursday, August 16

Many elderly are poor, not only holocaust survivors...

The fight to provide holocaust survivors in Israel with an additional 1000 NIS per month is quite justified.
No one can survive on 2200 NIS a month (state pension for the elderly for those who do not have any private pension arrangements), certainly not elderly people, many of whom need increasing amounts of medicine, assistance in their homes to carry out various tasks such as cleaning, carrying heavy shopping, bathing, preparing (special) food and what ever else, become more difficult, once your body and perhaps your mind don't function that well any longer.
Moreover, the state of Israel received large payments which should go toward aid towards elderly holocaust survivors.

But, what bothers me in this whole public discourse, is the fact the NO ONE can survive on 2200 a month, holocaust survivor or not.
Shouldn't ALL elderly people be able to live a dignified live and not have to look for half rotten vegetables at the end of the market day, or make a choice between buying food or buying medicine?
All elderly should receive that additional 1000 NIS.

In the framework of the "hesderim", the social security payments will not be raised for many months, in spite of previous promises. This implies the elderly, dependent on social security, will not receive any additions either, while we have already been informed there will be raises in electricity costs, basic food stuffs, public transport, water etc.
Many of the elderly do not have additional health insurance. Thus they are not eligible for many of the more advance medicine they need.
This means that the the majority of the elderly in the country will become even poorer.

The economic climate is cruel towards the large majority of the elderly, whether holocaust survivors or not.
Yes, holocaust survivors SHOULD receive the additional 1000 NIS they ask for, but not only they.

Wednesday, August 15

Another Jaffa family facing eviction and demolition

The house itself was constructed sometime during de 19th century, in the style typical for that period: vaulted ceilings, 90 cm thick walls built from local limestone. Small windows high up in the walls, almost a fortress.
The H. family have lived here for ever, the great great grandfather was born in this house. The elderly grandmother, a widow who is still alive, was born here as well, long before 1948. All of the extended family have always lived here and they have ample proof.

Some years ago, one of the ceilings caved in, while grandmother Zeinab was in her room. Wounded, she was brought to the hospital and after a few days returned home. Her son and daughters repaired the roof and replaced it with brand new roof tiles. While at it, they also painted the old walls in a fresh bright pearly white.
That's when the first strange letters started arriving: the municipality claimed they had illegally added a room.
The family answered that they had merely replaced the roof which had caved in. The roof was new, but the room wasn't. The municipality sent over a guy to check, who was so impressed by the new paint, that he decided most of the house (compound really) had been newly constructed. The family showing him the high vaulted ceilings and thick walls constructed from huge limestone blocks in obvious original Ottoman style, weren't able to convince him.

Then something even weirder happened, the Amidar public housing company sent them a court notice to inform them they had to leave their home, as it wasn't theirs.

Now the H. family can easily prove they lived in the house way before 1948. Grandma was born their and registered. As was common in those days, poor people didn't have testaments, they simply lived in the same house, generation after generation and all of the community simply knew the compound as the "H compound".

But Amidar have strong lawyers, and the H family are poor and not all of the older generation are literate. So they are faced with a demolition order for part of the home and an eviction order for all of the compound.
The H family are one of the families from Jaffa, from Al Ajami faced with demolition and eviction orders. Needless to say, they are an Arab family. The naqbe goes on and on.
The H family are trying to fight back.

Jaffa, summer 2007

Sunday, August 12

The budget and the "hesderim"

Any country has a budget, but how many countries have "hesderim"? I'm wondering about the correct translation of that term. "Kombina" isn't proper English i assume.
So what should we call it? Is there actually a word for it? Suggestions anyone?

The official budget of the state talks about how governmental money is spent or rather, should be spent. No doubt there are many ways to mislead the public and the politicians, but that happens in many countries. Money that should have gone here in reality is channelled there, but at least the public can check and criticise.

"Hesderim" is a different soup all together. A thick book full of little rules on where the money really goes, or will not go. Or how to prevent the money from reaching certain groups while preferring other groups.
Our politicians are supposed to vote on the whole package, which is extensive and needs more than simple translation.
Unless very aware, in many cases politicians simply are not able to understand the true and full implications of many of those rules. Sometimes perhaps no one really grasps what it will lead to. There appear to be few standards and even fewer checks.

Which is perhaps why it might be a very good idea to cancel the hesderim.

But the hesderim are ways of little politicos to favour their even smaller friends. To pay back elegantly where the term "banana republic habits" would be more apt.
The problem is that many of these little hesderim are presented as more or less "one liners", e.g. socal security payments will not be updated for the next year in the budget.
The hesderim contain such "goodies" as raising local taxes, raising the electricity and water and municipal taxes while cutting discounts for the poor. Or privatising certain services or raising the cost of public transport. Another "goody" is postponing the rise in the minimum wage. Hell.
Certain services, in the good of all, or dealing with major social issues, should stay the responsibility of the state. Turning them over to private business, where the stress is on money rather than the good of society, seems a very bad idea. Just think "bridge collapse in Minneapolis" or Michael Moore's "Sicko" to understanding what privatisation does to the public good: it does mostly bad.
The hesderim conceal all kinds of sneaky little ways to privatize the public good. Which tends to do good mostly for a few very wealthy business owners. And what about us? We'll be paying the price.

You need to add 1 & 1 in order to understand the full meaning of these hesderim interventions.

The poor will be poorer and there will be more of them
The rich will get yet richer.

Social justice and human rights have stopped being relevant in this country.






Soccer Kids from Jaffa on their way to Europe

"I'm almost 11 years old!" " Me Afraid? Never!" "I didn't sleep last night, I couldn't, I'm so excited!" "Miss my mum? No, mmm yes, I've never been away from home for such a long time, I'm a bit scared but also very happy."
They are 10 - 15 years old and over the last year or so they've trained and played soccer at least 3 times a week at Rifat Turk's Soccer School.
We met this morning in front of the Muslim Scouts Club on Jaffa's Yefet Street, next to the big bus that's taking them all to the airport. The large majority come from Jaffa. They are Arab and Jewish boys on their way to Europe, to a training camp and soccer matches with their European peers in Austria, Hungary and Italy. For most it's the first time they go abroad and for all the first time they are leaving home without their parents for such a long time.
"Where's my passport?" "Make sure to call me to let me know you're OK, come on, say our phone number out loud so I know you remember it by heart". Granny wants to give you a kiss, come on!. And granny gets on the bus and embraces her grandsons.
Then the bus doors close
The excitement was catching. After the bus had left, the parents, some of them tearful, embraced each other. Proud of their kids and also a little worried.


Saturday, August 11

Reconstructing the Al Adassi Home once More, We Won't Give Up

I'm still a little shocked.
On my way to the first stage of the 2nd reconstruction of the Al Adassi home a silver coloured Peugeot 206 car slightly bumped into me from the back , while i was walking along with other activists through Al Ajami. It happened so quickly, i didn't understand what had happened until the car was gone already. Hardly anyone noticed it.
I think it was on purpose, as a few seconds before the car had stopped and we tried to convince the driver and another elderly woman sitting next to him to join us. We explained what the demo was about. The car was in the middle of a slow moving demonstration, when it suddenly started driving quickly. I was , well, shocked.
My friend Eli gave me some cold water to drink and i marched on. Hardly anyone noticed what had happened. I guess i was very lucky.

Some 40 Jaffa activists met this afternoon to march from the HaShnaym Park to the site where we started rebuilding the Al Adassi home last week. Last Wednesday the municipality arrived with some 40 "yasam" (special units) police men and 2 bulldozers to destroyed the foundations and plant adult olive trees taken from one wonders very much where.
They placed guards as well, but one guard against 40+ construction volunteers doesn't work out, so after telling us he was going to call the police (which he did, they arrived in a squad car but didn't interfere, i guess they prefer the quiet morning hours when there aren't many activists around) he preferred to sit in the shadow.
We worked, evening the land to prepare for laying foundations once more. We had to do it by using the old back-breaking method as it's impossible to use a small bulldozer due to the trees. This involved working with our hands.
In fact, yesterday three activists tried to use a small bulldozer to prepare the land in which case we would have started to lay the foundations today, but the police interfered and for three activists lacking back up (and no camera carrying press present), the chance of being arrested and getting beaten up was to big. So they retreated. After the preparations were finished, some of the activists picketed along Yefet Street.

We came back today in full force. And some time this week we will start with the foundations. Information about the exact date and time will be passed on using the regular message network.





Friday, August 10

Almost an olive grove

If you wouldn't know better, or look closely, it looks like a nice little olive grove, right in the middle of Jaffa. It grew there, in one day.
The trees may well have been stolen from the territories, the main source of Israel's adult olive trees.
They were planted by the municipality over night, where last week the foundations for the new Al Adassi home were laid by the Jaffa community. A few bulldozers, some trees and we have an instant "park". They even placed two guards, to guard the trees. They tried to tell us to leave, When we insisted on staying, saying it's a public place after all, they gave up after having contacted their supervisors or commanders or whatever.
Tomorrow we'll show the municipality we are NOT giving up the struggle. Be there at 12.00, at the corner of Ehrlich and Yefet Street. Be there!

Thursday, August 9

Demonstration in Jaffa, Tomorrow, Friday at 12.00

Tomorrow at 12.00 o'clock, at the corner of Ehrlich and Yefet Street (Gan HaShnayim) a demonstration against the home demolitions will be helt.
We do not only demand a stop to all demolitions, but also the right to receive housing solutions for all in Jaffa.
There is no problem with wealthier people moving in, as long as the poor and their children are not being kicked out. As long as their is viable housing for everyone.
However, what is happening in Jaffa is something entirely different: With the help of the municipality, the wealthy are moving into Jaffa, at the cost of the people from Jaffa, who are being kicked out systematically. Out into the streets that is, as they have no where else to go.

Yeterday the municipality destroyed the foundations of the new Al Adassi home. The Al Adassi family is still homeless, the children and mother living with different relatives, the handicapped 12 year old son in a foster family and the father where ever he finds a place.

The housing situation in Jaffa is beyond hope and getting worse and when the situation is desperate, it is time for equally desparate measures. Like many, the Al adassi family have no place to go. The municipality hides behind little rules and bylaws and does not provide a solution. A roof above one's head should be a basic right and a responsibility of the community to provide for its members.

The municipality planted trees in the place where the home was and where the new foundations were constructed last friday. One wonders where these olive adult trees came from. Were they stolen from Palestinian families in the occupied territories?



The New Al-Adassi Family Home Destroyed As Well

Last friday activists form Jaffa helped the Al Adassi family rebuild their home, after their previous home was destroyed some weeks ago. Yesterday the municiplaity's bulldozers completely destroyed the foundations of the new home.

Friday, August 3

The Al Adassi Family Home is Being Rebuilt by the Jaffa Community

"No to Home Demolitions!" is the Jaffa community's answer and today some 50+ people turned up, to start rebuilding the Al Adassi family home, which was destroyed by the Israel Lands Administration a few weeks ago.

On one of the hottest days of the year, in the blazing sun, when sitting on the beach with some water melon would be the most logical place to pass a lazy friday afternoon, the Jaffa community showed what it can do: In solidarity with the families, whose homes are being threatened, we started rebuilding the home. The foundations were finished today.
In addition a large tent has been erected so the fmaily and sympathisers will have at least a temporary roof above their head.
A police van turned up to ask what we were doing. The guy close to the concrete mixer explained the policeman he was running a workshop teaching people how to make concrete. The policeman left the scene. :)
Materials have been donated by Jaffa building & construction workers and hardware stores.




Thursday, August 2

August 31st - BlogDay

Picked this up somewhere:

BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.



Blog Day 2007

Wednesday, August 1

Child Slaves in Israel

Sana, aged 12, makes 5 NIS an hour rolling stuffed vine leaves for a catering service. She's happy with her job, as finally she has some money for herself. She loves to buy tattoo stickers, ice creams and a pink t-shirt with a glittering heart.

Others are 15, or 14 and sometimes as young as 10 years old.
They work in stores, in fast food joints, building sites or carry your groceries to your well air-conditioned car in the supermarket's parking lot.
Some carry heavy loads in the market, others work in hothouses, where crops have been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. Sometimes you see them in construction sites, not wearing a hard hat, as there are none in their small head sizes.
They earn as little as 10 NIS an hour, although there were cases in which they received only 5 NIS. Many work long hours, without a break, often in the sun and sometimes with dangerous materials, without sufficient protection.

They are our very own children.

Some days ago the Ministry of Industry & Labour sent its supervisors to check on the employment conditions of minors doing summer jobs.

Guess what. In 70% (that's right, seventy) of the cases, they were employed in an illegal manner. In most of the cases, they earned way below the minimum youth wage. They do not receive payslips, nor are they given breaks. they are often employed for long hours or on saturdays. I could go on.

It makes me wonder. Who are those children? Whose children are they?

Frankly, i have to admit not being surprised by the employers. In the same manner they abuse migrant labourers, and adult employees from weakened backgrounds, they will abuse children as well, if and when they can get away with it. And that's an easy one, given the fact that children are little aware of their rights and even small amounts of money may seem a lot.

What does it say about our society? If this is how we treat our own children , how we teach them that it's OK to cheat them, that's it's just fine and dandy not to protect them against abuse, then why should we be surprised they turn out holding views we might not like so much?


So What?

There were little brownish black things, scurrying away from the sudden light, as i opened the flour container this morning. I tend to buy flour, rice etc. in bulk, on the market, not wrapped up. It's cheaper that way. Besides, you see what you buy (or so i thought).

The price of wheat flour, corn, soy beans and other basic food will be going up sharply all over the world, so the media informed me this morning.
Once upon a time 1+1=2, but that was in first grade.
On a global scale, things appear to work rather differently; 1+1=6, if you control the supply chain and it happens to please you.

True, droughts here and there, floods somewhere else and climate change all over. Petrol prices going up and the use of bio-fuel becoming more attractive, thus turning valuable agricultural areas, previously used for food production, into bio-fuel land.

Because isn't that what this is all about? Large conglomerates taking over control, investing where it serves them best, driving up the price here and lowering it there, so they can take over yet a little more.
Local farmers becoming (often underpayed) farm employees, working on the same land on which they previously grew their own communities' food, growing crops serving far away communities' needs for bio-fuel or animal feed, while creating local food shortages.
Logistics and transport fees drive up the price of foreign crops exported/imported world wide.

Global shortages are artificially created, on order to drive up the price, while large stocks wait in warehouses just for that moment, when the price is right (or wrong, depending on your point of view).
Agricultural subsidies are cut thus serving international conglomerates rather than the local farmers and local markets.

Perhaps it is much better to control the basic food market world wide, in order to promise adequate food supply for all. But the conglomerates and their political cronies wouldn't like that, would they?

And on a more local level, i expect the price of the basic controlled food (milk, eggs, bread, flour, rice, soy bean oil etc.) to go up. They are creating the "right" (=wrong) climate for the price hike, explaining it's a world wide trend. Of course the country's poor will receive a small subsidy in the form of 2 NIS or some such, to be slowly added over the next few years, as compensation.
It will be presented as a true victory for "social justice".
I just love the newspeak of those "PR" professionals employed by Elite Strauss, Tnuva etc. etc and the politicians. "we have no choice to blah blah blah". Yeah right.



Tuesday, July 31

The unbearable lightness of cynicism

The wonder boys of the ministry of finance are at it again. They have served our (?) politicians with a wonderful mix of measures, presented in one booklet, to be voted upon in one go. Needless to say, they are talking about budget cuts. Where? From the poor, obviously, where & what else?

The idea is of course, that when these suggestions are made within the context of a few hundred others, no one will truly pay attention and all will be passed, as is usual, in one single vote.

I will highlight only one: child allowances will only be paid for children who go to school. Right. No wrong, bloody wrong.
In Jaffa the school drop-out rate is 49% from all Arab children enrolled in the sub standard public school system. When taking a closer look, you'll find out that many of these children come from extremely poor families, often cut off from the electricity grid, no running water, no adequate medical services nor adequate and healthy food.

When looking at drop out rates in all of the country, the picture isn't very different. Children who drop out of school, often come form poorer and more weakened families.
So instead of assisting those families and investing MORE in their children, in order to give them a bigger chance, perhaps invest in back to school programs (what about maybe ADDING to the child allowances of poor families?) they want to punish these families by REMOVING the child allowance.

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And our blind politicians will probably vote in favor, as the suggestion is stuck somewhere between x & y within a whole bunge of other small measures no one really pays attention too.



Sunday, July 29

Rebuilding the AlAdasi Family Home

Three weeks ago, the Al-Adasi family's home in Al Ajami neighbourhood in Jaffa was destroyed. This weekend we'll rebuild it with the help of the Sedaka Reut youth movement, the Jaffa popular committee and various Jaffa building materials shops and specialists who will donate (mostly) their materials and services.
Join us in rebuilding the home this weekend.
We'll meet this friday, August the 3rd at 14.30 at the corner of "Gan HaShnayim" on the corner of Yefet and Ehrlich street, Jaffa.

Jaffa is for its people. Not for the wealthy property developers and their cronies.

Rebuilding the destroyed property is part of an effort to find a liveable and comprehensive housing solution for all of Jaffa's residents as well as the for next generation.

Saturday, July 7

All the way from Darfour and ... back?

Olmert intends to send back Soudanese refugees, who crossed into Israel from Egypt, to their deaths.

Some years ago, an Israeli cargo-ship captain discovered a few African stowaways on his boat. He forced them into a life-raft (with a few bottles of water) directly into the shark filled sea.
He knew they wouldn't be able to reach safety, that he was basically killing them. They knew it too, and one of them tried to resist. He was beaten up.

One of the appalled crew-members filmed it, the materials made it to the media and the captain was brought to justice. The public were outraged and rightfully so.

I do not see the difference between Olmert and this captain. The crew of that boat were appalled by their captain's act.
Except for a few members and activists of human rights organizations, very few Israelis are as appalled and willing to do something about it.

And in case anyone thinks in Egypt the refugees are safe, watch this
Or the movies "A Long Walk Home" or "The Art of Flight" about the dangers facing Soudanese refugees in Egypt.
Stating they will not be in danger when sent back into Egypt, or worse, into Soudan is playing with their lives, sending them to the sharks.


UNHCR on protecting refugees

The photograph, made 2 weeks ago, shows a young refugee girl in Jaffa's Arab Jewish Community Center


Friday, July 6

Not only bread

Since a day, it has become impossible to buy fresh "standard bread", that simple bread known as "white" or "brown" or simply as "sliced". No need to add the word "bread".
In Jaffa this means, pita bread only from now on.
No doubt there is little change in the fancy stores in Tel Aviv's northern neighbourhoods, where fancy "designer" breads from various boutique bakeries fight for shelf space. At 15-20 NIS a loaf, these breads are never seen in Jaffa (for comparison, a standard bread costs about 3.70 NIS). The large industrial bakeries, who make hundreds of thousands of standard breads every day, wish to raise the price of these loaves by 12.5%, due to the raise in flour prices world wide, or so they claim.
As the price of standard bread is controlled (just like that of a few other standard foods, such as flour, sugar, salt, milk, soy bean oil, simple rice, eggs, butter, white and cottage cheese etc. in order to enable the poorest of poor at least food security) by the government, they need permission for a hike.
As permission has not yet been given, the bakeries have simply stopped making the standard breads, thereby making it impossible for many families to buy that very basic item, which makes up a significant part of their menu.
Moreover, they threaten to fire 800 employees, if they will not be allowed to sell the bread for more.
In the mean time, they make more fancy bread, which they can sell for much higher prices.
The minister of trade & industry, Eli Ishay states he will not allow the raise, unless the poor families are given a slight raise in their social security allowance, of 2.5 NIS a month.
Yeah right, that will surely reimburse them! 2.5 NIS a month covers the price hike for exactly 5 standard loaves!

The point of course is not the price of bread, but rather the continued cuts in social allowances, the refusal to hike up the minimum wage in any significant way and the lack of effort to control all those private manpower agencies, who are today the main employer of people employed in low wage jobs, such as cleaning, secretarial work and security guarding.

The problem is poverty. Poverty is NOT solved by adding 2.5 NIS to the social security payments.
Poverty is not solved by enforcing low basic food prices.
Poverty is solved by a combination of higher minimum pay, better social security payments, enforcing labor laws in regard to employment conditions as a higher minimum wage, as well as advancing education and vocational training for all.

Yes, it is bad if bread will be more expensive or not available. It is horrid if indeed 800 bakery workers will be made redundant (i don't entirely buy that story by the way), the discourse on bread puts the emphasis in the wrong place.
Poverty is at the source of the problem and the bread price will not solve that.
The solution lays elsewhere.

And in the mean time, pitot and home baked bread!




Explosion on Yefet Street - Update

One dead, an as yet unidentified man in his forties, and 7 wounded, one of them badly.
The damage is extensive. Huge 1.5 meter pieces of razor-edged metal roofing and isolation material, belonging to the truck that carried the gas containers are laying about on the street, some 30 meters from the place where the explosion took place.
Coming closer, the street is covered with bits and pieces of unrecognisable things.
The truck itself was blown into the small public garden "Gan HaSnaym". Not much is left of it. Some 10 damaged cars crashed one in into the other stand about, in the middle of the rubble. Some are quite badly smashed.
The truck appears to have belonged to a catering company. More gaz cannisters, fridges with their contents spread out over the street, crates of food, huge bags of quickly melting icecubes etc.etc. Someone's party is going to be less fun than expected.

Mrs. Yahne is sitting outside of her small house. she lives on the corner of Yefet and Ehrlich streets, where the explosion took place. When it happened, she was sitting in her living room. All windows have been destroyed, the light fixtures came down, as did the mirrors. She's still in shock. Unable to say much more than "i thought a bomb had fallen on my house."
Her next door neighbours, the Ohnisian family, have similar problems, although the damage done to their house seems to be a little less extensive. They're in shock as well.
The windows of the nearby "Alrabita" (The Association of the Arabs of Jaffa, a Jaffa based NGO) have been blown out as well.

Yefet Street is still closed off. the electricity company are working ro reconnect cables that were cut off due to the explosion. No traces of explosives have been found. It appears one of the gaz cannisters tranported by the truck may have leaked. A spark did the rest


Explosion on Yefet Street

A very loud bang was heard about half an hour ago in Ajami.
It appears a gaz container exploded, killing one and wounding 4.

Yefet street has been closed to all traffic in the area of GanTamar

Wednesday, July 4

Omar and Zeinab Adasi and their 4 children became homeless today

Zeinab and Omar Adasi woke up to the sound of a huge bulldozer today. Some 500 policemen, many of them from special units ('yasam"), surrounded their small 3-room home at 6 o'clock this morning.
The bulldozer started working before they were able to take all their things from the house which had been their home for the last 26 years. Zeinab was still in bed and barely got out of the house before its walls caved in into what only half a minute before had been her bedroom.
Zeinab and Omar have four children. the youngest of them (a 12 year old boy) is severely handicapped.
Omar used to be a construction worker, but today he lives of social security payments, due to an illness he suffers from. Zeinab spends most of her time taking care of their youngest handicapped son, who needs much attention.
All around the small family home close to the harbour new luxury buildings are being erected for the very wealthy. For 26 years Omar and Zeinab lived in the house which Zeinab's father had bought for them from its previous owner.Over time Omar added a small room, as his family became larger. They also developed a small garden next to their house. The garden land, so Omar admits, didn't belong to him.

A few months ago they were served with a demolition order. Apparently Zeinab's father had not bought all of the house or sold a room of it. The demolition order however, was taken out on all of the home.
Zeinab and Omar don't know how to read Hebrew very well and they tried to do what they could, to no avail.
This mornng they tried to convince the police to give them an hour, in order to run to the court and take out a prevention order. Their request was refused. The house was destroyed in a few hours and except for the mountain of rubble, it almost seems it never was there.

The older son was upset and screamed at the police, tried to stop them, and as a result was arrested Later today he was released.
The story is typical of what is happening in Ajami.
Many families live in what now it prime development land, close to the sea, with a lovely view. It's easy to remove poor people from their homes, especially when their reading skills aren't too developed. When they don't know their way around the bureaucracy.

The family members have nowhere to go. The handicapped child was place in foster care, the mother went to an uncle and the other three children each to another relative.
And Omar? Omar walks around in circles, crazed, in what once was his home.
I think there were tears in his eyes.

Jaffa, summer 2007

Monday, July 2

Shafdan Found Guilty

Last week, the "Shafdan" company was found guilty by the peace court of having seriously damaged Israel's marine environment some years ago.
They were fined 800.000 NIS, which is quite a pathetic joke, considering the extent of the damage done.
The Shafdan company is responsible for the waste water management in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. For many years, they did not bother to maintain Jaffa's rather ancient sewage pipe system, until, one hot summer day, the main pipe basically exploded. A 10 meter high pressure shit fountain was the result. Houses were flooded, cars swept away and the smell...
No words can describe it.
As repair was going to be a time-consuming business, they decided to simply chuck the metropolitan raw sewage directly into the the sea for a period of approximately 2 months. No swimming, no fishing, no beach and yes, the smell, that too.
Fishermen went broke, kids were frustrated and nobody asked the fish and other marine creatures what they felt about their environment.
The lovely azure water close to the beach looked sort of brownish for months.

The shafdan constructed an huge monster of an elevated sewage pipe in Jaffa, adorning our main boulevard for about a year, while laying a new permanent pipe system.

Sewage pipes don't simply crash one day, they crash when they are not properly maintained in an ongoing regular manner. But that was beyond the Shafdan management 's considerations, who, by the way, make huge salaries.
Irresponsible? Unprofessional? Insensitive? All of those, but, as the court decided, foremost criminal.

Zalul

Friday, June 29

Mr. ehhh, president?

They shut a deal, the state attorney and Katzav's lawyers. They must be pleased with themselves. The now ex-president will not spend time in jail and he'll pay some damage money to his 4 victims.


He's, it's official now, not a rapist. How wonderful. What a feeling of release. The state's honour has been truly saved. Hallelujah. Praise the Law!
OK, so he's "only" guilty of indecent conduct, sexual harassment of his employees and a few other nasty deeds.
Katzav happened to be the president of Israel and like Haim Ramon (minister of (in)Justice) and Itzik Mordehay (IDF general and politician) he abused his power to force sexual acts upon women who worked for him. It was easy, as he was a powerful politician and "they" were just secretaries.

THEY were women. They were victimised, their feelings disregarded, their bodies turned into objects. They, human beings with thoughts, feelings, sentiments, wishes, hopes, dreams, professions, fantasies and yes, their bodies, in short, multi faceted, female human beings, were objectified, turned into will-less "things" in order to serve the sexual needs of a powerful creep, their boss. The president.

It takes a lot of courage to file a complaint against a powerful man, who has used every tool in his hands to paint those women in an ugly light, to portray them in a horrific way and shame them.

Meny Mazouz's decision not to prosecute for rape (the police state they have ample and sound proof) but instead close a cheap plea bargain for a number minor crimes against some of the victims, shows it completely clearly: Women who have been victimised, should NOT expect Israel's legal system to support them.
Nor should they expect the politicians to support them (after all, Haim Ramon is offered a cosy minister's job). Women have learned one lesson: shut your mouth, don't complain. It's you who will pay the price, not the perpetrator.

Do something about it? Let them hear our voice, tomorrow, saturday evening at 19.30, Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.

Katzav should be tried. For rape and sexual molestation of 4 women. Nothing less.





Help! Xenu landing in Jaffa

Way before 1948 Jaffa was a Palestinian cultural center, "arus el bahar" (bride of the sea in Arabic) as Jaffa was known. And as befitting a lovely bride, Jaffa was richly bejewelled: Book printing houses, theatres, poetry clubs and a few cinemas, one of them the beautiful (if you're able to look beyond today's grime) art deco "Al Hambra" cinema.

Famous Egyptian singer Om Kolthoum performed there during one of her 2 Jaffa visits. People paid as much as two monthly salaries to attend the performance.
The Al Hambra, located in Jaffa's fancy Nouzha neighborhod (today's Jeruselam Boulevard) was the fanciest of all Jaffa theatres.
The AlHambra is a protected building, owned, so it is said (not sure it is true), by the Israel Discount Bank. Apparently the previous owner went bankrupt and the bank confiscated the building or some such. The building is in dire straits and in need of a serious renovation. In the mean time, it is used by two wonderful fringe theatres, the "Notzar" theatre and the "Klipa" theatre.

Todays Ha'aretz carries an article about a new central branch of the Scientology cult to be opened in Jaffa, in the Al Hambra Theatre. Ouch. Hell. That's really what we have been waiting for in Jaffa.

Now writing something even slightly critical of that particular cult on the web is often answered by legal demands immediately removing it "or". The "or" implying legal fights.
So it this post goes awol sometime soon, it will be because i really do not have the finances to fight them (Scientology) legally.
If you want to know what Scientology appears to be all about, you can do it two ways, pay a hell of a lot of money to become "clear" on an "advanced level" after so many years of "auditing" or read the "Xenu" leaflet" in one of many languages:
"The Xenu leaflet tells in some detail the story the big secret that is in the OT III level. It tells of the alien galactic ruler Xenu who was in charge of Earth and 75 other planets in this part of the galaxy some 75 million years ago and how he cured overpopulation by paralysing the people of the other planets, flying them to Earth in DC-8 space planes, arranging them round a volcano to murder them with H bombs. Not done with that these souls of these murdered people were gathered up and boxed, taken to cinemas and shown films for several days. The end result being that the souls clustered together and now inhabit people in their thousands. And of course they must be removed at huge expense."
I really don't mind if people like to believe in ancient green aliens as the source of all evil. Although i personally favour the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a more plausible way of explaining why and how we are here. (Besides, doing a little piracy is more fun than being "audited" as any true pastafarian knows).
However, why oh why the AlHambra? Let's turn it into a pasta place!


Saturday, June 23

Emile Habibi Road - finally.

"The madman, in the meantime, was busy painting a wall with a brush tipped into a bucket with no bottom. When the lawyer returned, sweat streaming, the madman asked, "Well, did you uproot the tree?"
"Yes I did," the lawyer replied. "I uprooted it completely, but didn't find your treasure."
"Get yourself a brush and a bottomless bucket and stand next to me and do some painting," the madman suggested."

From "The Secret Life of Saeed, the Pessoptimist" by Emile Habibi

Once upon a time the streets and neighbourhoods in Jaffa (well those that had names at least, many were known by the numbers, such as "60 street", - today's Kedem Sstreet) had Palestinian or Ottoman names, Boustrous, Nouzha, Jamal Pasha, Manshiyeh and Ajami, to mention just a few.

After 1948 everything was done to wipe out Jaffa's Palestinian character and street names were changed. Nouzha became Jerusalem Boulevard and Boustrous was changed into Raziel.
In all of Jaffa there are 4 or 5 streets with Arab names.
For many years now requests have been submitted to the municipality to name Jaffa's streets after Palestinians. The municipality had refused these requests for a variety of reasons, until now.
Finally, after many long years, a little justice. The municipality has authorised the request to name a street after Emile Habibi (1921-1996), author, politician (Knesset Member for the communist party), editor of the Al Itihad daily newpaper and Israel Prize for Literature recipient.

Other streets in Jaffa will be named for Ibn Khaldoun and others.
It's about time.