Saturday, March 21

Looking for a new "governor" for Jaffa

The "Mishlama leYafo, or the Jaffa Governance as it is called by the Jaffa Tel Aviv municipality, was supposed to be a kind of mini municipality for Jaffa. According to the original plans the governance was to have authority and full control over its own budget in the various municipal fields. But that was the original plan and reality is rather far away.
The mishlama tuned out to be a sort of Jaffa based executing branch of the municipality (where the real decisions were being made and the money was and is controlled), in essence creating a further barrier between Jaffa's people and the municipality instead of bringing them closer. Moreover, the mishlama has no responsibility in the fields of formal education and welfare and very little (close to nothing) in the field of informal education and culture.
The mishlama is run by bureaucrats and none of its top-people are from Jaffa, except ofcourse the "muhtar", aka Ahmad Balahe, (in)famous mostly for making sure no real change will be made, unless it is wanted and required by and serving the municipality, never mind Jaffa's people.
Gilad Peled, the resigning mishlama director, attempted to make a real change.
Initially Peled was conceived by the public as yet another ex-pilot, another one of mayor Huldai's ex-airforce buddies, serving the system, rather than the polulation who the system is supposed to serve.
Yet over time, it appears Peled started to see the other side of things. Not that he became a member of the various action gourps in Jaffa, but i think he srtaed to see the other side of the coin and wanted to do something real about it. He recognized the failure of Jaffa's educational system and dared to place the blame (and responsibility) where it should go: the municipality.

So he convened a multi-disciplinary team (from within the municipality) to work on a holistic program aimed at solving some of Jaffa's most awful problems: the way a large group from among Jaffa's young Palestinian population looses out, drops out of school, has no employment and gets dragged into the violent world of drugs and crime.

The program put the problem and the responsibility for solving it straight in the municipal center.
I have read the program's white paper (although i was not shown the budget) and i do have quite a lot of criticism, but that's looking at the "half empty bottle" rather than at the half full part: the Jaffa governance recognizes the problem (Jaffa's educational system starts failing at a very early stage, and dropping out of schools is caused by the system's failures), puts it straight at the center and points an accusing finger, putting the blame at the municipality and demanding it takes responsibility for solving the problems.
The white paper goes further and suggests holistic, dynamic and ongoing multi facetted solution based on cooperation between the various departments, age groups etc. The rpgram starts its intervantion at a very young age and aims at involving the parents. However, the program does not look at the various NGO's in Jaffa, which provide successful models and have the public's trust. The ngo's were not involved in wiriting the papar and their various extra curriocular activities and educational programs are not mentioned. I believe they could play a crucial role, ad they been involved in the planning. This is where lots of my criticism goes, but that is not the point of this article.
The program was rejected by the municipality as they see the mishlama as an executing body for the physical restoration of Jaffa (road repair, lighting, planting trees, garbage disposal and repairing the failing sewage system etc.) rather than undertaking work in the human sphere: education, culture, welfare etc.
The program is not mentioned at all in the municipal budget for 2009 that was authorised by the municial council this week.
Gilad Peled dicided to resign two weeks ago, frustrated by the municipality's rejection of his program.
Yesterday's papers carried ads looking for candidates to replace Gilad Peled. The local rags also carried articles stating the ex-labor knesset member Nadia Hilu intends to submit her candidacy.
Yes, it is important the Mishlama should be managed by a local professional who has a deep understanding of the local community and its problems (as well as strenghts), who is able to speak Arabic fluently, who knows his or her way around inside Jaffa, inside the municipality as well as the various relevant ministries and yes, it would be great if that professional would be a Palestinian as well as a woman...., someone we can actually trust, who sees Jaffa first and is not blinded by the ultra wealthy newcomers whose needs are very different from the needs of the local population, especially from the needs of the more weakened people.

What we need, is, first of all, a creative professional as well as a deeply caring human being, able to think "beyond the box" and understand long term aims rather than short term fancy sidewalks. Someone who can see through the nice-looking plans of the various enterpreneurs and understand how the local population will be affected. Someone whjo can actually take the mishlama into the direction it was supposed to take: become a mini municipality serving Jaffa's population. ALL of its population

Friday, March 20

Jerusalem in Jaffa - the patriarch and the mufti

Yesterday the Jaffa based "AlRabita" organization hosted a panel of people who don't often sit together: the patriarch of the orthodox church and the mufti of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa.
The panel met to discuss the religious, cultural and political context of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, March 18

Barricade successful, (for the time being)

From the early morning hours Manar Haj and her three young children (13, 9 and 3 years old) as well as many of the neighbours and local activists prevented the police from carrying out another eviction in Jaffa.
After several hours of being barricaded inside the small home, a lawyer managed to get a weeks time, in order to try and find a solution.

Manar is the divorced mum of three young children. When she married, some 14 years ago, she moved into the house of her husband's parents, as is common in Jaffa. His parents were public housing residents (Halamish), after they had been made to give up their large home in Ajami, years earlier, by the Israel land authority.
Over time the parents moved out and their son, his wife and the children stayed in the house. By law, as second generation they were entitled to.
Manar and her husband divorced and she stayed in the house with the kids. That's when trouble started. the housing company decided to move her out, insisting she was a squatter. Manar took a lawyer, not knowing this lawyer had been disbarred. she gave him all the money she had and would call him every few weeks to get an update as to how her case was coming along. He promised her all was going to be fine and no one would move her out of her home. Until the day she got the court order with the eviction notice - for the next day. Only then did she learn her lawyer had been disbarred, but she had no money left for a legal defence.
She called the housng company who told her to come over.
There she was made a "grand offer". She was to choose between either being moved out forcefully the next day or stay another 2 months for 3500 NIS a month (her total income stands at about 3000 NIS monthly) and then mve out on her own. Feeling she had no choice, she "agreed". It was eioher the street or some more time in her home.
Although she tried, she was not able to find a home she could afford.

So this morning the goonteam (police, including special forces- yasam) came over. Manar and her children as well as the neighbours and activists barricaded inside the home and gathered in the street, while a lawyer went to court.
We gained another week....

Another eviction?

A mother and three children may be evicted today from their flat in Pahad Yitzhak street in Jaffa today. We have very few details nd aren't certain about it.
However, those of you close by, please stay in touch, we may have to barricade.

Monday, March 16

The municipal budget for 2009, a Jaffa perspective

Today the Tel Aviv municipality will vote on its budget proposal for 2009. The municipality is making serious cuts in its educational budget, especially in the centre of Jaffa, where they will stop funding informal educational activities all together. Although the municipality is spending huge amounts (2 million!) on the Gordon pool in north Tel Aviv, the Jaffa "Neve Golan pool (our only one) get only 150.000 NIS. (Last year they got liottle less than one million) The Cherner center faces a huge cut, so they will not be able to take in the Jaffa kids, youth and adults who will no longer have a place in Neve Goland and the Lev Yafo center (which gets exactly 0 - zero- budget).
Some of this money is transferred to predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. I have no problem with these neighborhoods getting more money. I do have a problem when it happens at our expense.
The Mishlama submitted a holistic intervention program, aimed at dealing with many of the educational problems in Jaffa. the municipality refused the program, a first of its kind. Although i do have criticism on the programs approach and concept, at least they put the problem clearly up front and tried to get funding and do something.
Gilad Peled, the manager of the Mishlama, is quitting his job, in answer to the municipality's refusal to fund the program.

I'm sure the mayor's coalition will vote in favor of the budget, that bunch of sold out yes-men and yes women...

Just back from the meeting, it's most embarrassing to see the coalition members of the green party and of Meretz vote against their respective parties' ideologies the green vote for widening roads, adding cars and less use of public transport as well as in favor of adding parking lots and against using cleaner fuel.
Meretz vote against education, social aid, adding more social wrkers 9ni weakened neighborhoods against social housing etc. So much for ideology

"just a police exercise", so they say

Yediot carries an article explaining yesterday's police activity in Jaffa and Bat Yam "was just an exercise". Yeah right, that is why they did it in Jaffa.
If it was just an exercise they could have done it anywhere.
By selecting the spot, they were sending a message, loudly and clearly. Some might say, a threat
We got it....

Sunday, March 15

What's the police doing here?

Over the last few weeks we have witnessed various instances of violent police behavior in Jaffa.
Right now Gan HaShanyim (the Gazan's park) is full of police officers (some of them fairly high brass) as well as special "Yasam" forces, horses, arrestees trucks, you name it. A police helicopter hovers above our heads.

I just hope this isn't going to be another home demolition nor eviction.

Anybody knows what they are up to?

Wednesday, March 4

Police violence against children and women in Jaffa

Yousef (12 years old) and Ahmed (14 years old) were playing with a toy gun next to their home in Gorki street, a dead end alley in the center of Jaffa, this afternoon.
In Jaffa, close to the Jewish holiday of Purim, all toy-stores sell these guns, wildly popular with young boys who use them to shoot small colourful pellets and have fun.
Fourteen year old Ahmed broke his leg a while ago and walks with difficulty due to the heavy cast enveloping it.
Their little brothers stood around, in the hope of be allowed to join the game. A police car came by and the policeman shouted something at the boys who ran off, into their home.
Yousef's pregnant mum was playing with her youngest child, his grandmother taking care of things in the home, as was his 13 year old sister, Dunya. A few seconds after the boys had entered the home, the police burst in and started beating both 12 year old Yousef and 14 year old Ahmed, who fell due to his plaster cast. One of the policemen jumped on the plaster cast.
The mother intervened and got hit, falling on her pregnant belly.
Thirteen year old Dunya stared screaming and was hit as well, she fell, scratching her face.
Yousef was taken into the hospital, his head bloody and painful. Ahmed was taken into arrest. We just learned Ahmed has a bad asthma attack but is still under arrest, it is unclear if he will be taken to the hospital, as he is still under arrest.
Yousef and his mum have been released from hospital in the mean time, with concussion and wounds to the face, the pregnancy is OK.

Yousef's little 8 year old brother, who witnessed it all, has not stopped crying since the attack and is very upset.

Miriam & her 6 kids have been evicted

The good news, another apartment has been found and the contract has been signed. It's a nice place, but the rent costs 3000 NIS a month. Miriam's over all income (inlcuding 1200 NIS rent subsidy) stands at about 3400 NIS.
That will leave her not enough money for food, electricity, water, the very basics. She has 6 children, all school kids except for the youngest 2 year old girl. She has no one to take care of her, so Miriam cannot easily go out to work.

We started gathering at about 7.45 this morning, the usual activists as well as a few new faces. The police contacted us a few times and we told them we are working on a solution, please give us more time. One deal almost came through, then failed. The police came by a few times as did the Halamish representative, at that time there were some 30 activists around and cars had been parked very close to the entrance making forceful entry problematic. They left.
The youngest kids played in the streets, the teenage girls kept mainly to themselves, nervous, scared, not knowing if they will have home in another few hours.
During the day we contacted the press as well as the mayor's office. The mayor has not come back until now.
Time passed by and the feeling was that that will probably do it tomorrow. Miriam had gone off to see another flat and the activists played with her young children. However, the activists were leaving quickly one after the other.
Around 17.30 the room suddenly filled up with police men and moving company people, who were pushed into action. We pointed out Miriam, the mother isn't in, only her minor children.
It didn't help. In the mean time Rasha, the lawyer left to assist Miriam in making a contract for her new flat. There is no way she can afford this flat, but she had no choice. It's this flat or the street, which means loosing her children her her children loosing their mum.
We called her and asked the police to wait at least until she's back, pointing out that she is right now signing a contract. The police refused point blank and instructed the moving company to start working.
We felt helpless.
We knew Miriam was getting another flat, although there is no way she can afford it. They could at least have given her some time to get ready. But nothing helped. The movers worked quickly but not at all carefully. We were unable to prevent nor to intervene.

Miriam's new flat is not hooked up to the electricity system as a previous inhabitant left debts.
Reconnecting costs a lot of money, which Miriam doesn't have.

Alert for miriam's home - barricading NOW


All of those in Jaffa, please go to Miriam's home at the corner of Jerusalem Boulevard 37, NOW
She has not been able to find a flat and they will evict her and her 6 children out into the streets TODAY.
We can and must prevent it.
We need you all over there

Monday, March 2

Miriam and her 6 children are threatened with eviction out into to streets

Miriam, strong and very bright, has had a tough life. But it taught her how to fight, how to be assertive and how to get what she needs. But now things have taken a worse turn.

Today the police arrived to evict her from the home she squatted about half a year ago, out into the rainy streets.

She has nowhere to go. Quick intervention gave her another two days, in which she must find another flat. Miriam's children all go to school or to a kindergarden except the 2 year old one.
They live on social security. Miriam has a tough time finding employment as her youngest daughter, two years old, has no kinder garden and private childcare is too expensive. The family lives on about 2.400 NIS monthly. But over the last two months Miriam didn't get any money due to a bureaucratic mess. In addition she is entitled to 1200 NIS a month rent subsidy, but given the fact that a small 1 room studio flat in Jaffa costs about 2000 NIS at least per months, the family's chances of finding a rental flat on the public market are close to zero. Of course they are eligible for public housing but the waiting list is taking years, as there are no flats available.
After all, the country has been selling of public housing flats and instead of investing the money obtained from the sales in constructing new public housing (as was the plan), not even one public house has been constructed over the last twenty years inside the green border line. Wages and social security payments have gone down drastically, rent has gone up and rent support has gone down. More and more people are becoming homeless. But no one really seems to care, free market is "great" after all.

If she will be kicked out, the welfare department will take her kids into foster care. Miriam is a good mother. It would make more sense if they would assist her pay the rent. After all putting 6 kids into care would not only be most tramatic for all, but is also very expensive..... Go figure.

And those in Jaffa, we may need you to defend Miriam's home, this week. Stay alert.