"the poorer and more primitive socioeconomic levels"

a few days ago, i visited the jaffa visitors center at kikar kidumin in old jaffa. located underground, beneath the square, it's a bizarre mix of the ruins of a roman-era house (which currently is the site of a new archaeological dig, with college volunteers from ucla), disneyland-like roman centurian statues, a cheesy 1970s-era informational film running in a non-stop loop, old pottery in glass cases, and historical information along the walls.

in describing the history of the area, one of the displays written by the "old jaffa development corporation" explained that

in the battles for the liberation of jaffa, on the eve of israel's independence, many houses in the city were damaged, and some were totally destroyed. many arab inhabitants fled, and old jaffa became a huge area of ruins. with the coming of the massive waves of immigration during the 1950s, many new immigrant families, most of them from bulgaria, settled in that part of jaffa, just outside the old city, while within old jaffa, most of the new settlers belonged to the poorer and more primitive socioeconomic levels. because of the squalid conditions of their surroundings, and their problematic social fabric, old jaffa very quickly became a retrogressive high crime area, which earned the nickname "the big wasteland" and endorsement which brought it no great respect.
this paragraph, which i'm sure didn't seem controversial at all for its authors, says a lot about the ashkenazi-sephardi-mizrachi divide and class divisions within israeli society, and all the work that still needs to be done. obviously, this doesn't just mean yuppified disneyland-like gentrification.

one of my volunteer placements during my summer in tel aviv is the jaffa institute, a large non-profit social service agency that addresses hunger and poverty needs amongst the population of jaffa (part of the joint municipality of tel aviv-jaffa), south tel aviv, as well as in other areas throughout israel. their website indicates that in jaffa and south tel aviv, over 53% of the population lives below the poverty level.

so far, i've been helping out in the food distribution program, in a small wharehouse that makes westside campaign against hunger in nyc look huge in comparison.

according to their website, the food distribution program
provides severely impoverished families - referred to our staff by the city of tel aviv's department of welfare, and community and school social workers - with bi-monthly deliveries of nutritious food. Parcels arrive at the recipient's door in discreet packaging and contain basics such as oil, vinegar, flour, sugar, bottled water, pastas, rice, tomato sauce, nuts, canned vegetables, nutritious snack foods, soups, tuna, and more.
over the summer, the food packing operation seems to be a convenient hour-long volunteering option for birthright and other organized tours of the area. hopefully throughout the summer, i'll have the opportunity to learn more about the other aspects of the agency's work, and continue to improve my hebrew at the same time.

1 comment:

yudit said...

wow, thanks for pointing out this 'delicacy", "primitive" i need to go and have a look at this sign, i am very much aware of that mode of thinking, but thought PC had taken over most of Israel's public space (except for cobering the Palestinian narative ofcourse, that still very much is kept in the dark) thanks for the info