Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the 'gentrification' of jaffa

Tel Aviv Rooftop has blogged on the transformation - for the worse - of Jaffa, as witnessed from his regular bicycle rides through a city that is "Tel Aviv's much older and much neglected sister". He writes of "the gentrification (some would say 'Judaisation') of Yaffo that is being fostered by the combination of planning from city hall and market demand for authentic Mediterranean real estate.Yafo - charming old Arab houses, mosques and churches, arches and alleys, shocks of colour and light - fits this bill."

There is an ongoing "battle between the authorities and many Arab residents who received court orders to vacate their properties to make way for new developments, without, they say, proper compensation. Arab and leftist groups claim that the Judaisation of Yaffo is (again) driving out the local residents."

Jaffa, with its large population of Arabs and new immigrants from the FSU, has plenty of problems: "poverty, drugs, crime, schools that lag and social services that sag. From time to time there are minor eruptions of violence: a demonstration by Arabs gets out of hand, Jews throw rocks at a mosque. The sort of Arab-Jewish violence we saw recently in another mixed city - Acco - could reappear in Yaffo."

The cyclist blogger sums up Jaffa as "a beautiful, unkempt time bomb. Already bereft of most of its original Arab population, neglected, ignored riven by tension between Jew and Arab, Moslem and Christian, and now reinvented as a sterile real estate location to satisfy the Mediterranean fantasies of the rich (while ignoring the problems of the poor)."
He notes that according to a Palestinian history of the city:
"Every Palestinian in Jaffa is either directly facing eviction by the municipal authorities, or has a neighbor or relative who faces such eviction, an estimated total of more than 500 families are in this situation. The two main excuses for eviction are lack of licensing -- especially since licenses are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain -- or that the family is considered illegal squatters in their own home which is registered as state property."
Local committees are fighting the authorities for housing rights.
He concludes with a new addition to the city's architecture: "And into this expolosive mix, slap bang next to the Moslem cemetery, the Peres Peace Centre is arising before our unbelieving eyes. Like the megalomanic fantasy of a Norwegian lumber merchant, it imposes itself on the local environment like an alien from the planet Peres." Looking at his photo one sees what he means.

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