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Ajami, Jaffa

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Ajami, Jaffa


Ajami (Arabic: حي العجمي‎, Hebrew: עג'מי) is a neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, situated south of Old Jaffa and north of the Jabaliyya neighborhood on the Mediterranean Sea.

History

Ajami was founded during Ottoman rule over Palestine at the end of the 19th century by wealthy Maronite Christians. The neighborhood's streets were laid parallel to the coast, and a church and monastery of St. Antony were built. The neighborhood’s houses were built from limestone surrounded by large courtyards; the construction style reflected the economic ability of its initial residents.[1] The neighborhood is named after Ibrahim al-Ajami, one of prophet Muhammad's companions. According to a local tradition, he was buried in the south of the neighborhood. A mosque constructed at the site in 1895, al-Ajami, is named for him.[1]

Ajami played a significant role in the history of Jaffa including the Israeli War of Independence and the events of the Nakba. Following the decision by the British Government to end the Mandate for Palestine, violence erupted between the Jewish paramilitary groups (Haganah and Irgun) and Palestinian Arab irregulars.[2] Jaffa witnessed some of the most violent of these encounters. On May 13, 1948, the day before the declaration of the Israeli state, Jaffa surrendered and Palestinian Arab residents were forced to move into Ajami, where they were subject to martial law. By the end of the war, it is estimated that over 90% of Jaffa's Palestinian Arab residents were expelled or fled. Some 4,000 remained in Jaffa.[3]

Over the years, Ajami became run-down and neglected,[4] and was reported to be the lowest-income neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Jaffa despite being known for its palatial villas and unique architectural styles prior to 1948.[5][6] The neighborhood suffers from a severe housing crisis and drug-use.[7][8]

Gentrification projects

Despite these socio-economic problems and the neighborhood's severe housing crisis, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality drew up plans to develop the neighborhood, which subsequently increased housing prices and led to the exodus of a growing number of Arab residents. Many of Ajami's Arab residents feel that they have come to suffer under Tel Aviv-Yafo's Municipality's plans to 'develop' the neighborhood.[9][10] Since the start of the gentrification process, many wealthy Jewish Israelis have moved into the neighborhood.[11][12]

In addition, some 497 eviction and demolition orders have been served by the Amidar, Israel's government-operated public housing company, targeting Ajami and Jabaliyya residents.[9][13][14] Ajami residents claim that this is a result of discriminatory policies which date back to the establishment of the Israeli state, but the Amidar company says they are illegal squatters.[15]

The housing crisis developed political overtones when one of the housing projects, B'emuna, said its apartments would be sold only to members of the religious-Zionist community.[16][17] In February 2010, the Tel Aviv District Court dismissed a stop work petition presented by 27 Ajami residents, which argued that the stipulation that housing in the project be available only to religious Jews discriminated against the neighborhood’s Arab residents.[18][19] In November 2010, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected the appeal and upheld the continuation of the project.[20]

Landmarks

Al-Ajami Mosque

The Ajami Mosque was established by Haj Yousef-Al-Manawi in 1895 on the shrine of Sheikh Ibrahim-Al-Ajami. It is located in the northern part of Ajami next to the Hassan Arafeh public school.[21] Under British rule, Ajami Mosque was the only mosque open for daily prayers.[22] The mosque and the adjoining school were previously owned by the Islamic Waqf, until the Israeli authorities annulled their status as Waqf property under Israel's Absentee's Property Law.[22]

Arab-Jewish community center

Ajami is the location of the Jaffa AJCC, a municipal community center in Tel Aviv-Jaffa catering to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations in the city.[23] The center was established in 1993, bringing together conflicting populations and educating towards reconciliation, recognition and cooperation. Both facilitated and unmediated encounters take place at the center between members of Jaffa’s diverse ethnic and age groups, including children from Jewish and Arab kindergartens, elementary and high school students, and adults.[24]

Peres Center for Peace

The Peres Center for Peace, located in the southern tip of Ajami, opened in December 2009 after 10 years of planning and construction. The building (2,500 sq.m.), a distinctive architectural landmark on the Jaffa coast, was designed by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas.[25]

Tourism and recreation

"The Old Man and the Sea" is a popular Arab seafood restaurant in the southern part of Ajami.[26][27] Abu Hassan is a small hummus restaurant located on the northern tip of Ajami. It was opened in 1959 by Ali Karawan and now has two additional branches in Jaffa.[28]

Notable residents

Fakhry Geday, born in the Ajami neighborhood in 1926, is a pharmacist, owner of the Al-Kamal Pharmacy that has been in the same location from the time of the British Mandate.[29] To neighborhood residents, it is a city landmark.[30] Geday is writing a history of the neighborhood.[5][31][32][33]

Omar Siksik, also born in Ajami, owns a local hardware store. He is the founder and chair of the Committee for the Arabs of Jaffa, and was recently elected to represent Jaffa in Tel-Aviv Yafo Municipality's city council.[34][35]

Film

The 2009 Israeli film Ajami directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani was nominated as a foreign language film for the 2010 Academy Awards. Many characters in the film were played by non-professional actors who live in Ajami.[36]

References

External links

  • The Peres Center for Peace
  • Arab Jewish Community Center's Official Website

Coordinates: 32°02′42″N 34°45′00″E / 32.04500°N 34.75000°E / 32.04500; 34.75000

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