Sunday, August 24

It could have turned into a disaster

Some time ago i wrote about a disaster waiting to happen. Today it almost did.

Right in the middle of the "Shem HaGdolim" housing estate there is a huge central gas tank, the opening of which was turned into the neighbourhood's children's monkey bars.

Pipes run from the tank all over the estate. Bad maintenance leaves them exposed and kids are kids, they love to climb and investigate. If they did so today, no one knows, but Samira of the recently formed neighbourhood committee, was among the first to notice, then her friend Zeinab, living on the bottom floor. A terrible gas smell had by then enveloped the neighbourhood. The ever changing wind made it difficult to locate its source. They called the gas company SuperGaz, then the fire department. The police soon arrived as well. After some two hours a gas technician arrived. It took a long time to locate the source of the leak. The gas in that area was closed off, until someone can come to repair, tomorrow morning some time.

It could have been worse. Samira and Zeinab noticed and called for help. But repair work and placing the big gas tank somewhere safer might not be such a bad idea. Halamish of course, Halamish, the public housing company thye are responsible for that sort of major construction.

Food safety measures and the violence of poverty

Aida fainted last week. From Hunger. She hadn't eaten in two days and that wasn't the first time it happened. She and Ramzi, her husband are both ill, but there is no money for the many medicines they need to take.
Aida doesn't see much, her glasses broke and she fixed them, with tape as there is no money to replace them.
Ramzi used to work transporting and lifting heavy objects such as fridges, washing machines etc. from the age of 18. Now in his late forties, his back and heart give him trouble. Social security recognised him as 30% disabled, not enough to warrant him disability pay. But he can no longer lift heavy things, and has no other job skills.
They have only child allowance as income. 400 NIS a month for them and their 5 young children aged 3-10. (They are supposed to receive 800 NIS, but as Ramzi has not paid national insurance while being ill and not working, he has a debt, which is being deducted) .
Yes, he is trying to correct the situation with the social security, but not being able to read and write makes it complicated.
And in the mean time, they were not able to pay the rent, so the house owner wants them to leave their flat in another two weeks.
They used to receive rent subsidy, but when Ramzi's social security payments were cancelled, the family's rent subsidy was automatically cancelled as well. One only receives rent subsidy is one is dependent on social security. They same goes for the discount in municipal taxes, which was cancelled. Ramzi and Aida don't see a way out.

It's not only Aida and Ramzi and their five kids who live in the small 1 bedroom flat, but also Aida's sister and her 4 children, who were kicked out of their flat two months ago by the bank after they couldn't meet the mortgage payments. That makes three adults and eleven children in a one bedroom flat. Her husband works but as the market is slow, his employer reduced his work to 3.5 days a week, "for the time being". His salary (minimum pay) doesn't always arrive on time. After they were kicked out of their flat, the bank sold it, for a low price. They still owe the bank money, although they paid the mortgage for more than 10 years.

It's almost Ramadan, time for reflection and and meeting the family. Festive dinners after a day of fasting. Well fasting is a regular one at Aida's home, There is no food. The festivities are far away.
School will also be starting for the children. But they do not have the books, pens and notebooks they need.
One of the children, a 10 year old boy, has been found to be extremely gifted and is supposed to enrol in a special educational program for gifted children. But he doesn't sleep well, he's scared of being out in the streets, having no home, nowhere to go. The school promised psychological counselling.
The boy's parents suffer from serious health problems and there is little chance of them finding good employment. Social security has been denied (yes it will probably be returned, but these procedures take time) and in the mean time there is no food. Soon there will be no home. Psychological counselling will not do much good. The young child will probably loose the chance of a lifetime, as the gifted children's program is demanding and the kid doesn't have the energy. Of course the family doesn't have the transport fees (it's in Tel Aviv) so he won't go.

Lately there have been political talks about food safety programs. There are also talks about additional cuts in social security payments in the coming budget.
Cuts cuts and more cuts. If social security payments would be higher and the bureaucracy dealing with them simpler and quicker there would be no need for food safety programs. The same goes of course for raising the minimum wage. After all, 60% of Israel's poor are WORKING poor.

Poverty and keeping people poor is a form of violence. Aida, Ramzi and their children and Aida's sister's family and so many others are victims of that violence.
Israel's ever widening social gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is ethnically marked.

Almost Ramadan and almost the beginning of the school year, Ajami, Jaffa 2008

Friday, August 15

Shooting in Yefet Street, Jaffa

When a driver in his forties dared to comment upon the driving style of a young guy in Jaffa's Yefet street, on of the two guys in the young driver's car got out and shot the older driver, who , lightly wounded, took of for nearby Wolfson Hospital.

Last night i heard several volleys of shots in the area close to my home in Ajami. My neighbours stood out on their balcony and tried to see anything. We heard shouting, so assumed someone must have been hit.

Apartheid in Jaffa's Municipal Pool

The "Neve Golan" municipal pool in Jaffa's "HaBaal ShemTov" street serves kids and adults from all over Jaffa. A simple swimming pool, nothing luxurious, with green lawns around and plenty of corners for kids to play in.
Mothers and their children from all ethnic groups living in Jaffa make use of it. Not any longer.

From now no, monday will be a the "No Arabs Allowed" day. Officially.

I hope someone will take it to court and demand damages.

I hope nobody will come to the pool on Monday.

South Africa? Western Europe during certain periods?

Wednesday, August 13

Newly homeless in Jaffa

Fauziyeh Dake, in her late forties, fainted when her teenage son Salim wanted to explode himself with a cooking gaz container in the centre of their living-room this morning, the moment the municipality goons and special police forces came to demolish the family's home in "Pardes Dake" in Jaffa.

One of the older sons of the family was murdered some 3 years ago in the infamous "Benny the Fisherman" murder case. Since then the family's youngest son, Salim, finds it hard to get organised and to live a regular life.
The family has been fighting a legal battle over the last 6 years against the demolition order that the Tel Aviv municipality took out on their only home.
The Dake orange grove, located in the center of Jaffa and Bat Yam's urban sprawl, is privately owned land by Jaffa's Dake family. According to the city development plan the grove, home to the large Dake clan, is considered agricultural land.
As a result there is no building plan and as a result of that, one cannot get a building permit. However, the grove stopped being a grove ages ago and the land is home to the large Dake clan.
Who cannot legally build any homes on it, because it still is "agricultural land".
Mousa Dake successfully fought a legal battle when the court decided it is in fact illegal for the municipality to take out demolition orders for homes in the pardes, but that decree did not help Fauzieh and her husband, Abu Jalal Dake, whose demolition order preceded that decree (appealed by the municipality in the supreme court). The municipality did not bother to inform them of the approaching demolition (which they should have, in writing) and took them by surprise. As a result nothing could be done to prevent the disaster. Destroying a family's only home is an act of extreme violence.
The illegal procedure used by the Tel Aviv municipality should not come as a surprise; If they would have warned the family, they could and would have gone to court and stood a good chance to win, given the new decision on the grove. But there are other interests.

Part of the Dake family reportedly signed agreements to sell their homes to a wealthy land developer, Samuel Flato Sharon, who wants to destroy the existing homes and build another closed compound for the wealthy. Fauziyeh and her family did not sign such an agreement. Many other families don't either.
Many of the families who did not sign, have received demolition orders. Is there a connection there? Hard to prove but a question that needs to be asked.

Although the answer comes too late for Fauzieh and her family. Where can they go? Where can they stay? What will the future hold for them?

Salim, the youngest is supposed to be under house arrest. The only question is where? He doesn't have a house any longer....

Home demolition right now, people needed

The home of Jalal Dake in Izak Harif street in Jaffa is being demolished tight now
We need people there NOW.

Thursday, August 7

The French Hospital mmm Sorry, Hotel and Apartment Complex

A French women's convent constructed a hospital in Jaffa in the late 19nth century. The sisters provided medical care for Jaffa's people of all religions and social groups. Countless people from Jaffa were born in the building and received top medical care during their life time. Wounded Palestinians were treated in it during 1948. The very religious sisters spent their lives and energy caring for Jaffa's ill and infirm.

In the spooky cellars there still are some ancient travel boxes of some of those sisters.

The large and imposing building was one the very outskirts of the city at the time of its construction.

After 1948 the building became a mental health clinic, and a few years ago it was closed. The last sisters are very old now, and they moved to a smaller place just opposite.

The lovely building, constructed around a courtyard, stood empty for some years, although there were ways of getting inside and travelling in the eerie cellars downstairs, the morgue or climbing up to to roof for a lovely view of Jaffa. Some people (guess who) held great picknicks with a good wine and food on the very illegal roofttop.

All that is finished and over now. The building is to become a boutique hotel and appartment building for the wealthy. "Electra" Real Estate bought the place and will be investing some 60 million $ in the rennovation.

Although i am happy the building will not be demolished, it's a pity it will not serve the local community, like it did through out its history as a place of care and aid.

Municipal Generosity

Yediot Ahronot carries an interesting article today about affordable housing in Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv Jaffa municipality will subsidize 2000 appartments for young couples in Tel Aviv, or so the title says.
However, when you read the article, one starts to wonder. The suggested solutions relate to young families with a monthly income of 9000 NIS. Now what?
The average income in Israel is about 7.300 NIS.
The minimum income stands at about 4.000 NIS.
Families on welfare need to survive on as little as 2.000 NIS a month (and sometimes receive rent subsidy for another 500 NIS).
To my understanding it is the poorest who need housing subsidy the most.
Yet this "revolutionary" project doesn't take them into account at all. Supposedly the housing ministry assists the very poor, therefore the municipality wnats to assist those who need it but do not receive aid. But in reality that assumption is a farce, the poor are becoming homeless quickly as they cannot afford the rent and the queue for public housing takes years and years. The tiny rent subsidy they receive -if they're lucky enough to navigate the burocracy involved- covers the rent of a doghouse at most, not a 1 room flat in Tel Aviv, for a family with 3 children...
The municipal (remember it's municipal election year?) "generosity" relates to wealthier groups of of young professionals perhaps.

Monday, August 4

"Getting rid of them?"

That what it feels like, "being gotten rid of", says Aida, in her late thirties, mother of five.

She left school when she was 10 and got married at age 13. Her mum died soon after. She had 5 children, the youngest of them 5 years old.

"I never learned anything, i don't know how to read nor write. That's why i want my daughter to be a good student, i'll do anything so she'll finish school. See how she reads and writes? Have you seen her school report? She's a good student!"
Aida looks at 13 year old Zeinab, just back from the community swimming pool. Hair still wet, reading a library book while munching a piece of bread. Later on Zeinab will go to a local grocery store where she cleans, a summer job. She receives less than the legal minimum wage, but is happy to be able to help out.

Aida is worried. She lost the legal fight for her flat and as of September 20th she will have nowhere to live.
She submitted a request for rent subsidy and received as answer that she'll receive 700 NIS monthly. Her income stands at 2200 NIS. Rent for a modest 2 bedroom flat in Jaffa stands today at at least 3000 NIS a month.

Aida doesn't know what to do. She has not yet told her younger kids they have to move. What can she tell them? That they will move out into the streets?
Her 5 year old son suffers from severe asthma and hardly went to kindergarden this year. She has to stay with him, in order to care for him. How can she work? She started two job this year but each time they told her to go, after she had to leave early in order to care for her young son.

Aida is desperate. But no one seems to care. When she tells her story to her social worker, she's met with understanding and sympathy, but there is no solution in sight. Aida's on the waiting list for social housing. She may be there for many years to come, as there is a severe shortage and the list is very long.
Rent subsidy is supposed to help her, but the cuts have been severe and the rent has gone up. She has been looking around and around, but there are no flats she can afford.

As she says: "they simply try to get rid of me, where can i go? "

I don't know what to answer her.