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.