Tuesday, December 29

The 2010 municipal budget - good for the wealthy and who cares about the rest?

Yesterday evening the Tel Aviv - Yafo municipal council voted for the budget proposal for the year 2010: 
The coalition praised themselves for their great sensitivity and the wonderful budget proposal. That included Jaffa council member Ahmad Mashrawi (Meretz) who, like the total bunny he is,   voted in favour of a budget in which the south of the city, Jaffa included, continues to be discriminated against.
Mashrawi, who just loves publicity,  claims to vote in favour of  Jaffa but the facts show the opposite. Meretz are part of the coalition and their current track record is highly embarrassing.  

The outnumbered opposition (to Ron Hulday's wide coalition) asked to vote separately on a number of clauses, in order to try and make at least a few improvements and do some social justice:
Omar Siksik of the Jaffa list asked to vote separately for an added 200.000 NIS for the Jaffa based "Hirsh" early childhood development center. 
The Hirsch centre provides testing and treatment for development problems for children at a young age.   The centre is highly professional and the only service of its kind in the whole city able to provide these services in Arabic. The centre's very existence is threatened due to the continued budget cuts.  The implication of the centre's closure or limited ability to provide services is obvious: Parents will not be able to provide their young children with the most basic services. Not even privately (the majority would not have the money for that in any case) as their is no alternative in all of the city for Arabic speaking young children. 
Mashrawi (Meretz, that supposedly socially conscious party, now part of the coalition, what will people do for a little money) has been posing as the big fighter for the Hirsch centre, but reality is rather different as he did NOT vote in favour. He abstained, what a hero!

A city that spends 70 million NIS on a bicycle rental project does not have 1.100.000 for the Hirsch center, or 55.000 for the teenage health clinic, which will receive 0 money in 2010.

Or, another example: the Toulouse Club for the elderly, the only one serving Jaffa's elderly Palestinian population in Ajami, has an annual budget of 70.000 NIS. Its sister club in Neve Golan (Yafo Gimmel) which serves that area's Jewish population receives 220.000 NIS in the budget.  I am in favour of Neve Golan's budget. But Why does the Ajami Club for elderly Arabic speakers receive so little? 
And these are only a few examples. I could go on and on and on. The budget is highly biased.

Tel Aviv is positioning itself as a city for the wealthy only, disregarding its poorer inhabitants. In addition the 2010 budget is totally greenwashed. More and more car parks and highways. 
It was embarrassing to see Peer Wisner (the Green Party also in the coalition) vote in favour of the budget. What a little money does to these "freedom fighters".

Sunday, December 27

Jaffa for Gaza Demonsration

"Stop the siege of the Gaza Strip" was the main message in yesterday's demonstration in Jaffa, where over 1000 people, Palestinian and Jewish Israelis. marched through Jabaliyah and Ajami neighborhoods from the public housing estate at south Kedem Street (aka "the Jungle") to the Ajami Mosque. The demo had been organized by the Jaffa popular committee in coordination with several other organizations.

One year ago Israel started its murderous atteck on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in some 1500 dead, many of them civivlians, women and children, over 5000 wounded and a total destructon of the Gaza infrastructure and many homes. Complete neighborhoods were demolished.

The continued siege of the Gaza Strip has created an additional catastrophe, when basic medicine, food, fuel for the power station and the sewage treatment and water cleaning plants, school books etc. cannot be imported.

The Gaza Strip has become a prison camp for its inhabitants. Many families cannot meet, as some of the family memebers are ni the West Bank, others in the strip. Students stucjk in the West Bank cannot go home, others, who were accepted into higher education programs are not able to leave. People cannot recveive life saving medical treatment available outside of the Gaza Strip at a mere 40 minutes car ride.

Many of the Gaza Strip's residents have Jaffa roots, their families forced to leave the city in 1948. Many are connected by family ties, so whatever goes on in Gaza, is important in Jaffa and the other way around. The peaceful Jaffa demonstration opens a week of world wide activities in support of the people of Gaza
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Saturday, December 26

The crime of being poor as defined by the Tel Aviv municipality

Yafo Gimmel is located at the very southern end of Jaffa, almost Bat Yam. Nowhere close to any of the fancier locations much in request by the gentrifyers and real estate investors looking of yet another option to make a lot of quick money.

Long concrete blocks with many entrances, "shikunim" as we call them. No elevators, small box-like flats stacked one on top of the other. You always know what the neighbors are at, the walls are thin.

When Jaffa's lovely old buildings were demolished some 40-30 years ago, many of their Jewish inhabitants received public housing flats in the large estates of "Yafo Gimmel" and "Yafo Daled", thinking they had made the deal of their lifetime. No longer would they have to share the same kitchen and bathroom with several other families in Ajami's old crumbling mansions of pre-naqbe age. Instead they would have their own little kingdom with the unknown luxury of a private kitchen and shower. Very small, that's true, and not too well contructed, but it was their own, rented for a relatively low monthly fee from the public housing company.

Over time, those who did well moved out and new migrants from the ex-Soviet Union and very recently, Ethiopia, took their place. The public housing company sold them their flats for a thieving  very "reasonable"  price and all felt they, once more , had made a good deal; they had become home owners. 
Of course the tiny and by now quite old homes were (and are) heavily morgaged and the monthly payments weigh heavy on the population many of whom have become unemployed and dependent on ever shrinking social security payments or on minimum wages. Food isn't always secure. Medicine cannot always be bought when necessary. Very few children have all the school books they need, but at least their families own their own homes. And that gave many of the people living in the Yafo Gimmel's Saharon street a (false) sense of security.
The public housing company's maintenance standards had always been low (and that is an understatement) and the construction level of the buildings was less than shoddy to start with. And the poor homeowners pay all their money to meet with the morgage requirements, leaving very little for necessary home repairs.
Two years ago the municipality defined a large block in Saharon Street, with close to 100 flats devided over 10 entrances, as "dangerous" and the demanded the home owners carry out immediate extensive (and very expensive) repairwork to the crumbling structure.

In the past this sort of work would have been taken care of by the Neighborhood Renewal Project ("Shikum Shkunot" שיקום שכונות) and the inhabitants would have had to pay only part of the cost against a friendly loan certified by the project. Yet but the Neighborhood Renewal project was fazed out in Jaffa (well, officially it still exists, its total annual budget for all of Jaffa standing at 20.000 NIS for 2009 which is being used as a partial salary for some educational work in the center of Jaffa as far as i know) .
The inhabitants of the block did not carry out the necessary repairwork. They simply don't have the money to do so.
In addition, many of them simply don't speak the same language (Russian and Amharic are more popular here) and in any case it is difficult to organize such a large group of inhabitants (over 90 densely populated flats).

So the burocrats of the municipality thought they had a good solution. One that tends to work quite well in North Tel Aviv: a law suit. One that usually forces the refusenik home owner into compliance.
The Tel Aviv - Yafo municipality criminally sues every single adult inhabitant of the block!
"Criminal"? one wonders. Yes, not carrying out a repair order of this type is a criminal offence, as the criminally inclined homeowner endangers all those living in the building or passing near by. It might collapse if the repairs will not be carried out.

The option of criminally suing repair refusing home owners was made to force slum landlords into taking care of the buildings they own. That law was not made in order to abuse poor people who were tricked into building their homes from a public housing company that wanted to get rid of property on which they would have to spend much money. The real slum landlord is the public housing company (partially municipality owned) that made a lot of money selling the flats, instead of spending it in repairing those very same flats.
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Today at 5 p.m. "Break the Siege" demonstration in Jaffa, from 163 Kedem Street

The Jaffa Committee for Gaza invites you The Jaffa Committee for Gaza invites you
To join the "Break the Siege" demonstration
Today, saturday, Dec. 26th at 17:00, from Kedem 163, Jaffa

One year ago the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip began; 1440 people were killed, over 5000 wounded, most of them civilians and many among them were children. This on top of the large scale destruction of infrastructures and houses in the strip.
Over 70,000 residents became refugees following the attacks. Notwithstanding the popular worldwide movement denouncing the war and demanding of Israel that it lifts the siege on Gaza – Israel continues on with its policies. The siege remains, and its victims are countless; children, elderly, sick, hundreds of families whose houses were destroyed during the war and who cannot rebuild and overall one and a half million Gaza citizens who live in the world’s greatest prison.

As response Gaza civil society’s call, an international protest movement was established to call for a lift of the siege on Gaza. Activists from all over the world have joined thousands of Palestinian activists from Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

As a follow up to the protest against the war which took place in Jaffa, we invite you to join the demonstration in Jaffa in order to add our voice to those of our international colleagues who also object to the siege.
Saturday, 26/12/09
The demo will begin at 17:00 from Kedem st. 163 and will end in Gaza park (Gan HaShanyim) (Yefet 74)

Wednesday, December 23

Another Ajami home demolished today

The terra coloured one story building at the corner of HaOgen and HaToren streets in Ajami, next to the "Hasan Arafe" school, housed an extended family. The father, who in the past led the struggle against the demolition plan of his home,  is currently imprisoned.  As a result, the municipality had a relatively job.
The land next door to the home (currently in use as a parking lot for the teachers and parents of the nearby Hasan Arafe  primary school) used to belong to the waqf but as often happens in these cases, it was sold "somehow" to a wealthy newcomer and in any case, the municipality wants to construct another unnecessary road on part of the plot where until today a family used to live. Who cares if a they loose their home as a result?
A part of the home is still there, open like a dolls' house towards the street.A large piece of green cloth offers scant protection against the cold night and prying eyes of all those passing by.

Another family pays the price of Ajami's gentrification.

Street gossip says the guy who bought the plot next door pressured the municipality into quickly carrying out the demolition, because he wants the planned road to be constructed ASAP, before he starts his own building plans. If indeed this story is true, one wonders how he thinks he can live there, next to the people whose home he caused to be demolished.

Sunday, December 20

Phoenix Torcina

About 2 weeks ago "Torcina" was more or less demolished on court orders.Usually demolitions are carried out by police protected bulldozers. The bill for which is later presented to the unhappy previous owner of the building/current owner of the rubble pile.
Mr. Torcina decided he would do his own demolition, in order to save paying the municipal bulldozing bill and salvage some of the building materials for recycling. And "recycling" he did.
On Kedem street, opposite the Hasan Arafe School, "Torcina" had become an institution.
Water pipes, coffee, tea with nana (mint) in summer and maramiye (sorry, no idea what it is called in English) in winter, tales and sheshbesh, it had become the all male sanctum for Jaffa's intellectual crowd.
I didn't write about the demolition, because it was obvious. Torcina is not something to be destroyed. The flimsy glass and wood building was never much to look at. The dense smoke probably supported it from collapsing to begin with. As did the tall tales told by some of its more notorious famous clients.
Not a location for the faint nor the faint of heart. Books and stories were written in and about the place.
I mostly passed by saying hi to this one and waving to the other. Not a place for women. Why? No idea, it simply wasn't and isn't. But i pass by almost every day.
Usually demolitions in Jaffa are quite final. Not Torcina: The smoke goes on, the smell of sweet strong coffee and the stories told by this client or that one, Torcina is back again. Business as usual.

Wednesday, December 16

The supreme court on the etrog case

The Israel land administration sold publicly owned land to a company "Be'emuna" who wish to construct a building "for religious zionist nationalist Jews only" right in the center of Ajami, on the "etrog plot", where our market used to be.
After having won the tender, the company started a marketing campaign marketing the to be constructed flats to the religions nationalist public only. At below the market prices.
Several Jaffa residents and the Israel Association for Human Rights took the case to the Supreme Court in order to prevent the sale of the land.
After all, it is not legal to sell publicly owned land to a company that sells to a certain segment of the public only and not to all others interested in living in the project thereby discriminating against all "others". We called and tried to buy flats, but they wouldn't sell to us, only to their own folks.

The court returned the case to the adminstrative court but accepted our request to prevent, at least for the time being, the handing over of the land to "Be'emuna".
A small victory.

Tuesday, December 15

Playing with fire in the Ajami mosque

Yesterday morning a group of armed settlers entered the compound of the Ajami mosque (next to the Hasan Arafe primary school) in the framework of their tour of Jaffa.

One wonders about the true purpose of that visit. Was it to repectfully view the grave of Ibrahim Ajami? The ajami mosque, unlike some other beautiful Jaffa mosques, is not of great beauty. Not a place a tourist wold go out of his or her way to visit.

Thus, the armed settlers' visit raises serious questions as to their purpose. A  provocation?

The Jaffa community turned to the police and the municipality for protection against this kind of most unwanted "attention".