Wednesday, February 27

Murder next to school in Ajami

The children inside the "Hasan Arafe" primary school heard the volley of shots, just when they were supposed to go home. Their teachers decided to keep them inside for a little longer, in order to find out what was going on in the street, just to make sure everything is safe.

Hani Shurafi, aged 19, was killed this afternoon and an elderly bystander wounded in Kedem Street, close to the "Torcina" waterpipe cafe, opposite the Hasan Arafe primary school.

The victims were taken by bystanders to nearby "Wolfson" hospital.

Monday, February 25

"Please Touch"

Yesterday evening i went with some Jaffa friends to "Not by bread alone", a performance at the "Please Touch (נא לגעת) theatre in the Jaffa harbour.
"Na Lagaat" (please touch) is a theatre group of 11 blind and deaf actors' assisted by translators in sign and touch language.
"Not by bread alone" is a play consisting of a series of sketches based on the actors' dreams, while bread is being made by them on stage.
Some of the actors, as they were born deaf and later became blind have difficulty expressing themselves through regular speech.
Seeing the play one wonders about limits of expression, and how to overcome those. In that sense the actors are amazing and very courageous.
Some scenes from of the play is visually beautiful, but as a whole, it's a problematic performance, suffering from too much nostalgia and an over-romanticised view of a world that perhaps never was. But then, perhaps it is not fair to judge the play using regular critical tools. However, i don't think the actors are the problem. The visually beautiful scenes are prolonged, thereby loosing some of the magic that was present at the first instance. It's the story, the play itself, that doesn't "work". And that is no fault of the actors, whom i admire.

The words spoken at the end by the company's (an NGO) manager were problematic and not necessary.
The derogatory manner in which he expressed himself about the Jaffa harbour, "which will be saved by the throngs of people coming from Tel Aviv, as right now it is a bunch of "jiffa", were insulting to us, all from Jaffa.
No doubt, it's wonderful if and when dance groups and theatres will use some of the unused warehouses in Jaffa's harbour. Yet Jaffa doesn't need "loads of Tel Avivians" to come and save it and "replace the Jiffa with kultura".

At the theatre there are 2 other special culinary experience options: a restaurant "Blackout", where food is served in complete darkness by blind waiters and a cafe, "Capiche" , where service is carried out by deaf waiters and the guests are given the experience to order trying to use sign language (instructions on the menu and the place mats) , which was fun to try and experience.
The food at "Blackout" is by Nir Zook, which is promising, but we haven't tried it as yet.
The theatre-restaurant complex itself is located in a beautifully renovated harbour warehouse.

Thursday, February 21

Wikileaks censored?

Wikileaks was (or is?) a site publishing, well, leaks.
Documents put online by people who thought it important to share materials that NEEDED to be leaked, to safeguard democracy, to show what is really going on.
Information about major bank frauds in Kenya, about what's going on in Guantanamo, about Iraq...

No longer so. Wikileaks appears to be down
By court order , so Alternet informs us. Democracy right?

But, the creators foresaw censorship, so the leaking continues elsewhere

Tension in Jaffa around Desecration of the Muslim Graveyard

Some 35 years ago the waqf of the Muslim graveyard in Abu Qabir sold the land. For a lot of money.
The waqf had been appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and they ofcourse selected people who would serve THEM rather than the Jaffa Muslim community they were supposed to serve.
The sale was made without even asking the community.
But the community was not silent, as expected. they took the sale to court and after a lengthy fight they lost. Last week.
Apparently the developers expected to be able to continue the destruction of Jaffa. Not only the living, but even the dead aren't respected. The only graveyard serving the community is about to be partially destroyed in order to contruct private dwellings on it.
To quote Alain Fleisher "the death of death".
But things in Jaffa have changed. Some 35 years ago the appointed Waqf could, perhaps, do what they wanted. No longer so.
There is extreme anger amongst Jaffa's community. Not only the religious and not only the Muslims. It is one of the first times all of the community are joining in a unified fight.

On the one hand, it makes me a little sad that the struggle for housing did not unify people. After all, viable housing solutions for the living are of a critical importance for the community, for Jaffa.
Yet at the same time it's good to see people from so many different groups and movements, who under normal conditions don't even talk to each other, unified for the good of the community.
Construction on the graveyard land will NOT serve Jaffa's people.

Wednesday, February 13

Yet another eviction order...

H. is 88 years old. A very gentle man, but his memory isn't what it used to be. Alzheimer, so they say.
His smile lights up his face and his little grand daughter loves him.

Amidar, the public housing company decided to evict him from his home.
Why? Only hell knows, and apparently Amidar. Or maybe they and hell are more or less the same.

Sick child robbed of life saving electricity

M is 5 years old, a friendly, funny child, rather small for his age.
His mother and brothers and sisters live in a flat they squatted many years ago. M suffers from a severe form of asthma, and needs inhalation every 5-6 hours in order to breathe.

His kindergarten teacher is not able to provide the inhalation and as a result, M is at home all day long. His mother has to take care of him and as a result , she cannot work.
Her ex-husband stopped paying alimony and for reasons of bureaucracy, she has not yet started receiving social security.
Medicine and food are more important than paying the electricity bills, leading to a debt. With as a result she was cut off from the grid half an hour ago.
So was her neighbour, the single mother of a 1 week old baby.
Normally neighbours' lend a hand in these cases, but the whole building has been cut off.

For M this means danger, he cannot survive without inhalation.
His mother asked the electricity company guy to come upstairs and see for himself.
He refused.

The electricity company people were accompanied by two border police goons.

Jaffa, winter 2008

Jaffa Harbour

Jaffa's harbour is ancient. Some say about 5000, others about 4000 years old. Archaeological digs in the area found stone implements, suggesting the ea very early human presence of fishermen.
The riffs that protect the harbour's entrance have been there, well, for ever. Thousands of years.
They protected the developing town and its people.
It used to be one of the main ports in the area.
In ancient times, when navigation tools weren't that developed yet, boats stayed in sight of the Mediterranean shoreline and its harbours were found more or less on a day's shipping distance. Jaffa was part of the eastern Mediterranean port-chain of Gaza, Ashqelon, Jaffa, Apolonia, Caesaria, Acre etc.
Control over a harbour meant control over the surrounding area as well as economic wealth. And Jaffa, with its natural springs and fertile lands around it, became wealthy.
The riffs and rocks made it dangerous to enter for any one who didn't know the entrance of the harbour very well. Jaffa is high, and therefore relatively easy to defend against a sea-faring enemy.
Jaffa became wealthy and the harbour was the center of activities: fishing and the orange trade.
Durng the Ottoman era the harbour was developed.
But already in the early 20th century the natural defence walls of the harbour started to present a problem: as ships grew taller and taller, they could no longer enter the harbour. They used to anchor outside and small boats would come alongside, to carry people and products to and from the shore.
Over time other harbours (Haifa and Ashdod) took its place, although it stayed active as an international and shipping harbour until the late 1950-ies.
Today it still is an active fishermen's harbour. In addition there are activities for Jaffa's children, such as the sea scouts, a sea canoeing business, and some small fish-restaurants.

Yet the municipality wants to turn it into a relaxation and commerce area, like the Tel Aviv harbour.
And that's where the difference lays, the Tel Aviv harbour, constructed in the 1930-ies, was no longer in use. A dead area of rotting empty warehouses and suspicious activities. There wasn't a single boat making use of it.
The Jaffa harbour is still active, used by Jaffa fishermen for whom it is the source of their families' income. By turning it into a fancy harbour for the wealthy, the fishermen will loose their income. Already it is impossible for the young generation t get a new fishing boat licence.

The renovation plans are ready and the development has started. I'm not against renovation and development, on condition it serves the local population first of all.
Archaeological digs stopped the development. That's usual in Jaffa; when you start developing, you find ancient remains and all development has to stop until the archaeology department has defined what needs to be salvaged and how and what may be destroyed.
Ancient harbour constructions were found, but they are being covered again. Apparently cafes and restaurants for the wealthy are more important than saving Jaffa's past and its people's present source of income.
There has been a public outcry, the findings should be kept open, so people can learn about the harbour's history. Supposedly the findings are being covered for safety sake. But exeperience has tought us, the municipal development plans will continue, money is stronger and Ron Huldai, the mayor, first of all serves big money, not the city's people.

More info

Sunday, February 10

The Hamad Family Home in Ajami was Destroyed Today.

They lived in 4 Sarid Street, a "stonethrow" from my home; a family with children. A simple structure with an asbestos roof, the Hamad family home.

That was until tonight, as the Hamads are out on the street. And it isn't too cold right now, but winter wil be returning tomorrow, so the forecast says.

It doesn't really matter, they are homeless now, the Hamad family.

The police arrived around ten this morning. The family had not been given a demolition order (as they should have, by law). A family member who dared to protest was wounded by the police. who cordoned off the area, stating it is closed, due to the presence "dangerous materials" (that's the asbestos, i suppose).
The bulldozers came and the work was carried out quickly. No more home.
Apparently the family had a lawyer, who tried to put up a fight. As the family had not contacted the popular committee against home demolitions, no one knew about it and only few demonstrators managed to come to prevent the demolition.

The police serving big money as usual. Who cares about the people?

Hamad home being demolished now, we need people there

Just received news the Hamad home is being demolished.
People are needed to help the family at Sarid Street in Jaffa

update will follow