A turreted former Roman Catholic girl's school in Jaffa is being transformed into an exclusive Soho House club. Around the corner, a historic former convent is now a five-star hotel. Across the street, the glittering towers of the Andromeda Hill luxury residences overlook the Mediterranean.
But farther down Yefet Street, working class Arab-Israelis of Jaffa's Ajami neighbourhood face a very different reality. With housing prices out of reach, discontent over the city's rapid transformation into a bastion for the ultra-wealthy is reaching a boiling point. The crisis has taken on nationalistic overtones, with some Arab residents accusing the government of trying to push them out.
“Ninety per cent of people here barely make a living, from hand to mouth, they don’t have enough to eat," said Jaffa resident Ibrahim Tartir. "For a young man looking to get married, it’s 5,000, 6,000 shekels ($1,800) for rent, not including water and electricity and the rest. How much does he earn? About 6,000 a month. How can he live?”
Jaffa, the historic port at the core of the greater Tel Aviv metropolis, is home to about 20,000 Arab residents, remnants of the Palestinian population that lived there before Israel's establishment in 1948. The district has undergone extensive gentrification in recent decades with government encouragement.
“We’re reaching a point where Arab people can’t buy houses unless they are very rich,” said Youssef Masharawi, a Jaffa native and professor of physical therapy at Tel Aviv University.
The stress is starting to reach breaking point.
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