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Photo: Ido Beker
Jaffa Street in downtown Haifa is home to an impoverished community living in harsh conditions.
Photo: Ido Beker

Israel's Lowest Rung: The painful pictures of poverty uncovered

New report looks at distressed neighborhoods; Israel's urban islands of neglect and crime are home to a third generation of poverty.

Behind the reports and figures on poverty in Israel hide the painful pictures of distressed neighborhoods that are home to a third generation of poverty – Israel's urban islands of neglect and crime.

 

 

This is the situation in large parts of downtown Haifa, which Ynet revealed as part of a new report called "Israel Lowest Rung," highlighting the stories of individuals living in appalling conditions in Israel.

 

Jaffa Street is the home to extreme poverty in downtown Haifa. (Photo: Ido Beker) (Photo: Ido Beker)
Jaffa Street is the home to extreme poverty in downtown Haifa. (Photo: Ido Beker)

 

Meet Joseph, Amir, and Samia.

The senior residents of Jaffa Street, most of whom are Christian, live in the heart of downtown Haifa and suffer from neglect that has spanned decades.

 

The accelerated process of urban development around the neighborhood, but not in it, has exaggerated the problems of its weakened residents.

 

Whoever could manage to leave has run away.

 

Majiid Jacob, head of the neighborhood council in downtown Haifa, took Ynet reporters to the home of Joseph Retsch, a young man who was forced to leave his parents home.

 

"Look at what a ruin he sleeps in, without a shower or running water he is forced to defecate in a bottle. This whole area is neglected and he is not part of the municipality's plans," said Jacob

 

Joseph Retsch's apartment with no running water on Jaffa Street in downtown Haifa. (Photo: Ido Beker) (Photo: Ido Beker)
Joseph Retsch's apartment with no running water on Jaffa Street in downtown Haifa. (Photo: Ido Beker)

 

"We pay property taxes like any other citizen but we never had playgrounds. There have always been prostitutes and drug addicts. Criminals were raised here because children had nothing to do. I remember the holes where we used to play marbles. My children play in those same holes," said Amir Blan a resident who lives on the same street in downtown Haifa.

 

Sixty-three-year-old Samiya's children were able to leave the neighborhood, but she has nowhere to go. She lives on social security, NIS 2,700, in a crumbling apartment with the ceiling plaster peeling due to dampness.

 

"In the neighborhoods of Wadi Nisnas and al-Khalisa they help residents, but here they do not. The residents of Jaffa Street do not have money to fix their apartments so they sell them to people from Tel Aviv," said Samiya.

 

Samiya, a resident of Jaffa Street, cannot afford to leave the impoverished neighborhood. (Photo: Ido Beker) (Photo: Ido Beker)
Samiya, a resident of Jaffa Street, cannot afford to leave the impoverished neighborhood. (Photo: Ido Beker)

 

According to the residents, the changes made by the municipality on Jaffa Street, including the establishment of a Metronit bus line, which takes up an entire lane of the street, forced business owners to close their shops after parts of the street where closed to pedestrians.

 

They also suffer from serious health hazards, partly because of sewage and garbage that drain into a shaft of a building on the street.

 

The Haifa Municipality says it cannot help drainage issues that dirty Jaffa Street because they come from a private building. (Photo: Ido Beker) (Photo: Ido Beker)
The Haifa Municipality says it cannot help drainage issues that dirty Jaffa Street because they come from a private building. (Photo: Ido Beker)

 

Residents said that during the winter the sewage would reach up to half a meter high and that the street became a center for mosquitoes "the size of flies."

 

When residents turned to the municipality, they were told that the building with the sewage and garbage drainage was private and there was nothing that could be done about the issue.

 

The Haifa Municipality established a director for downtown Haifa a few years ago, and the municipality claimed that it had invested NIS 50 million in the area since.

 

"Our plan is not aimed to cause someone to move from where they are now," the Municipality said.

 

Residents referred to the Municipality's initiative with sarcasm and said, "Since the director started working four to five years ago, more and more people have run away."

 

The Municipality has had good intentions of renewal and modernization regarding Jaffa Street, but the question is whether the overlooked residents of the street will be able to enjoy the change or be forced to leave the neighborhood which has become a prime location for hungry real estate agents who seek to sell to large-scale investors.

 


פרסום ראשון: 11.15.14, 21:04
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