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.