Sunday, January 20, 2008

East of Ha'aliyah

A Shabbat morning walk in mummy's shoes...

East of Rehov Ha'aliya, a mere stone's throw from the jeeps and boutiques of Neve Tsedek, the demographics change radically and you enter neighbourhoods populated almost entirely by foreign workers.

There are plenty of signs of poverty and the garbage collection here needs improving, but not everyone is as destitute as this old man filling his supermarket trolley from grabage cans. Small groups of people hung around the phone booths waiting their turn to make cheap calls home.

The foreign workers, who hail from China, Romania, Africa, Thailand and the Phillipines (partial list) have for years now been doing Israel's dirty work: in old age homes, in construction, in agriculture and restaurants. As in every developed country, these "guest workers" tend to stay and their children have become Hebrew speaking sabras' who have no memories of their parents countries of birth. Before the second intifada, many of these jobs were done by Palestinians. Today their numbers are now more strictly limited but still, desperate for work, many take the risk, break the law and steal into Israel to work illegally.

The Bialik (Israel's national poet)- Rogozin school caters for the kids of these neighbourhoods and the poster hanging on its wall (below) gives an idea of the ethnic mix.

If you thought that being on the wrong side of the tracks would deter Tel Aviv's real estate developers from trying to make a quick buck, you'd be dead wrong. On Y.L.Peretz street (named after the Yiddish writer) one company is building a block of flats that it is marketing as 'Soho' no less. Click on the pic below to see the advertising image, not Romanian folk dancing, Phillipine church choirs or African drummers but 1960s hippies playing guitars in the street!

On the way home we passed through nearby Florentin, also on the cusp of major development but meanwhile still the home of dilapidated workshops and great graffiti.

Today I took my car in to Miko the musachnik (car mechanic) in Florentin . He and his neighbour are the last in the alley to survive and now he's waiting for the order to leave the garage his father set up over 50 years ago. "I don't want to think about it," he told me. "They'll have to pay me some compensation but I don't know where I'll go."

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