8 Chapters
Medium 9780253016713

Conclusion The City of the Forking Paths: Imagining the Futures of Binational Urbanism

Daniel Monterescu Indiana University Press ePub

This land is a traitor

and can’t be trusted.

This land doesn’t remember love.

This land is a whore

holding out a hand to the years,

as it manages a ballroom

on the barber pier. . . .

It laughs in every language

and bit by bit, with its hip,

feeds all who come to it.


A land that devours its inhabitants

And flows with milk and honey and blue skies

Sometimes itself stoops to plunder

The sheep of the poor.

NATAN YONATHAN, “A Song to the Land”

In the agonistic landscape of Israel/Palestine, no place has been more continuously inflected by the tension between intimate proximity and visceral violence than ethnically “mixed” towns. The immanent ambivalence of the binational encounter bespeaks the paradox of the copresence of political Others who are also immediate neighbors. This book has proposed a historical ethnography of binational urbanism by scrutinizing sites of daily interaction and ongoing conflict in contested urban spaces since 1948. Recapturing the longue durée of ethnic mix in the Mediterranean, the Ottoman legacy of confessional sectarianism, and the enduring effect of British colonial rule, I have conceptualized the intricate relations between ethnicity, capital, and binational sociality in these cities and beyond.

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1 Spatial Relationality: Theorizing Space and Sociality in Jewish-Arab “Mixed Towns”

Daniel Monterescu Indiana University Press ePub

In the Mediterranean, birthplace of the City-State, the State, whether it be inside or outside the city, always remains brutal and powerless, violent but weak, unifying but always undermined, under threat. . . . Every form of hegemony and homogeneity are refused in the Mediterranean. . . . The very idea of centrality is refused because each group, each entity, each religion and each culture considers itself a center. . . . The polyrhythmy of Mediterranean cities highlights their common character through their differences.

HENRI LEFEBVRE, “Rhythmanalysis of Mediterranean Cities”

The large-scale protest demonstrations staged by the Palestinian citizens of Israel throughout the country in the first two weeks of October 2000, now widely known as “the October 2000 events,” did not bypass Jaffa. For a few days in early October, Palestinian youngsters marched through the streets in solidarity with the casualties of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, destroying public symbols and state institutions including banks, post offices, and Jewish-owned stores.

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5 To Buy or Not to Be: Trespassing the Gated Community

Daniel Monterescu Indiana University Press ePub

The city is intimidated, the city is breathing its last, the woman on the rock does not hope for anything anymore! Or perhaps she does? I recall the beginning of the work in Acropolis. I was hoping for something other than the architecture of the thick cardboard, the stone mask of death. . . . Jaffa—a theater bereft of actors where tourists move about. A thousand years may pass till the dragon licks this festering sore, and till Andromeda, filled with shame, steps out of the Hammam, the nightclub, to found the old city anew. This is an “Old City” resembling an “Ancient City”—says Jouha with a sad expression on his face.

ARCHITECT LEON GENEVA, in a publication of the Rabita

Walking with a group of Palestinian and Jewish guests, we silently crossed the iron gate of the luxurious gated community. Slowly, we traversed the premises toward the western viewpoint overlooking the Jaffa port. Enjoying the breathtaking sunset we sat on the bench, still thrilled by the relative ease of our entry. Suddenly, as if reading our minds, a woman of around sixty approached us and exclaimed in Hebrew, which she then translated into English, “You can pass but you can’t stay!” Slightly alarmed but somewhat amused by her response, we nevertheless remained seated.

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4 Inner Space and High Ceilings: Agents and Ideologies of Ethnogentrification

Daniel Monterescu Indiana University Press ePub

I moved to a mixed Arab-Jewish building in Jaffa last spring, a refugee from the astronomical rents in Tel Aviv. . . . Jaffa radicalized me, in a way. I think about politics when I walk through Ajami, the neighbourhood that was, until recently, an Arab ghetto. . . . I think about politics when I look at the crumbling and neglected Muslim cemetery, right next to the architecturally striking new building that houses the Peres Center for Peace. . . . Jaffa is an interesting and cool place to live. . . . I just did not expect to feel like a colonizer for having moved 15 minutes’ walk from Tel Aviv. But, I do.

LISA GOLDMAN, “Jaffa, Habibti, Our Relationship Is Complicated”

In front of a newly built cubist construction on 60th Street in ‘Ajami, a large and colorful marketing sign promising “authentic and luxurious housing” read, “Living in Jaffa is a matter of style. Investing in Jaffa is a matter of wisdom.” A few days after it had been posted, someone covered the large board with black graffiti exclaiming in Hebrew, “House Thieves” (Ganavey Batim). The contractor in turn soon taped over the graffiti a yellow band with additional marketing content. Stemming from a local dispute involving the Palestinian Sawaf family, who originally lived on the lot and claimed to have been cheated out of their house, and Yoseph Shiloah, a famous Jewish-Israeli comedian who bought the land and later sold it to a private developer, this public correspondence of messages captures the political implications embedded in gentrification. Thus aggressive marketing of urban renewal (“luxurious housing”), on the one hand, and local protest against urban removal (“house thieves”), on the other, illustrate the contentious politics of urban space. Claiming to be deceived into signing the contract that positioned them as “illegal squatters,” the Sawaf family was promised replacement housing but eventually found themselves without a roof over their heads, living in a tent at the nearby public park.

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6 Escaping the Mythscape: Tales of Intimacy and Violence

Daniel Monterescu Indiana University Press ePub

Peace, doves of two strangers who share

The last cooing at the edge of the abyss.


Jaffa was once a Jewish city, but what the Jews took

by force the Arabs are now taking by money.

PAOLINA, an aged Bulgarian Jew in Jaffa

Safiyya Dabbah and Hanna Swissa, two elderly neighbors living in the Jaffa C. (Yafo Gimel) neighborhood, meet daily over breakfast. Safiyya, a Muslim woman in her nineties, was widowed thirty years ago and today lives on her own in a dilapidated shanty only a few steps from the building where Hanna lives. Hanna is a Jewish Moroccan woman in her seventies who has been a widow for twenty years. Despite the class differences between Safiyya and Hanna, which are metaphorically embodied in the buildings they inhabit—a ramshackle hut on the one hand and a tidy apartment building on the other—the two elderly women found a common ground they use to nourish their symbiotic friendship: both came from strict patriarchal families (Safiyya’s husband used to forbid her to leave the house, while Hanna’s husband was jealous and violent) and both gained considerable personal freedom after their husbands’ deaths; both speak Arabic and share a common cultural background; both are going through the experience of aging; and they live in geographical and functional proximity next to each other. While Hanna, aided by her welfare-funded housekeeper, shows concern for Safiyya, whose means are more limited, by supplying the food for their daily rendezvous, Safiyya keeps Hanna company and makes this pleasant morning routine possible.

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