Friday, March 9, 2012

Arrival in Israel

We have finally arrived in Israel! After a long flight we landed in the Tel Aviv area, where we were greeted by a wonderfully hospitable Palestinian-Israeli law professor who is hosting us for part of our time here. His wife cooked us an absolutely delicious dinner, which you can see below.

We went for a walk around the ancient city of Jaffa, where we learned of the significantly changed demographics of the community here.  Jaffa has traditionally been a mixed city, home to large communities of both Arabs and Jews, but now has mainly Jews living there.  We learned that in 1948, any Arab who fled Jaffa, as in other any other community in Israel, during the Israeli War of Independence, was made subject to the Absentee Property Law, which had the effect of expropriating their property to the state.  Even those who resided in their homes, but were absent during the census were subject to this law.  The state then could then sell the property on its own terms.

This is a house that was taken by the State of Israel under the Absentee Property Law; it is now being resold for an exorbitant sum due to the high property values in Jaffa, as high as in Manhattan.

Today, Jaffa is further losing its Arab community as a result of rising property values of once "absentee" Palestinian properties, having the effect of displacing Arabs who have lived here for generations with Jews escaping nearby Tel Aviv for lower house prices. While there is no facial discrimination against Arabs in acquiring or holding onto housing in Jaffa, we learned of many examples in which certain policies or developments have a disparate impact resulting in the exclusion of Arabs from the community. For example, we learned about a newly constructed gated community that advertised its complex to potential buyers as being Arab-free.

Today we head to Jerusalem to explore the ancient city and take in its complicated geopolitical landscape.

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