Saturday, February 09, 2008

New / Old Jaffa

I went for a wander through the old city of Jaffa on Saturday.

A glorious sunny day that brought the (local) tourists out in force.

I love Jaffa. It is such a bundle of contradictions. And it draws such mixed reactions when Israelis hear that I live there. They act like I live in some kind of safari park in deepest, darkest Africa. Or in the middle of the most dangerous part of New York. And so on Fridays and Saturdays people come to see the view and hopefully some wild animals, but only when there are other people around to reinforce the feeling of safe danger. Hordes of trepidatious tourists, eating their cotton candy and feeling rather daring that they are not on the beaten path. Which is ridiculous, as there are perfectly normal people living regular lives in Jaffa. We have more problems than alot of other areas in Israel - namely because there is such a large part of the population which has been disenfranchised. But the municipality is working on changing that .

The gentrification of Jaffa, which was originally where the dregs of society were encouraged to live - drug dealers and their prey, lots of low end prostitutes, non-Jewish denominations, criminals, low income or no income families, people who moved from the more respectable parts of the city because of increased costs, or were put there by the government and given abandoned houses for a duration of three generations after there property was lost during the war of independence (and what were they supposed to do after 3 generations?).

And then the city started to expand. Which is great, it means the country is growing and prospering. But expansion has to happen somewhere and the northern and eastern limits of Tel Aviv are now at least a 20 minute drive away. West is the sea... so that leaves south and Jaffa.

To put things in perspective, I can walk to the beating heart of Tel Aviv - Diezengoff Centre, in about 25 minutes. If I were to drive there it would take me about 5 minutes. How convenient is that? And a big bonus is that there is (right now, pre-gentrification) no parking problems, except on Fridays when the Hummous Brigade (aka local tourists) come out to play.

There are lots of unclear land issues going on in Jaffa. I won't go into detail, except to say that the bureacracy here is hell and what with all of the wars we've had, and the pre-British mandate lack of interest in the area (after all, this was a desert...), alot of people have lived on the same plot of land for generations, but with no clear ownership rights. Which means that in the eyes of the country (aka politicians and the developers who are in their pockets), alot of the land in Jaffa is ripe for the taking - which means money can be made... Which is good for me insofar as I will benefit from increased municipal services and my apartment will increase in value, but I will also suffer from increased taxes, increased population, fewer parking spaces etc. And the community will become less diverse - which is a very bad thing. One of the reasons I so love my neighbourhood is that there are so many different types of people living here.

But I digress.

It was a glorious day and there were all sorts of characters out, including fishermen bringing in their catch (fish don't have a day of rest, and so neither do alot of the fishermen). I didn't see anything spectacular, nothing over a kilo really, mainly red mullet and small mackerel. But the tourists were gathered and gawking.

They walked past the old shabby buildings that sit cheek by jowl with the new austentation of the Andromeda complex.

Old Decrepit Grandeur
New & Austentatious
Half Renovated, Half Shabby
I love Jaffa, but I really hope that the changes don't mean that it will become a Disneyland attraction, complete with cotton candy and actors playing the parts of the people who were moved on.
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4 comments: said...

Love your stories and photos! Thanks for sharing. Zee

aja said...

Hey Zee,
First of all... "Woof!" And thanks for the the kind words. I like your movie reviews - they give me food for thought.

yudit said...

the gentrification happens at the cos t of the local population: about 500 demolition and eviction orders, 98% of those against Arab families....
Who are then moved to Lod, as there is no alternative affordable housing for them in Jaffa.
In some places they would call that ethnic cleansing.

aja said...

Hey Yudit,
I wasn't sure exactly about the statistics - so thanks for getting the details out there for people to be aware of.