Gaza, AlRay - Jaffa was the largest city in historical Palestine during the years of the British mandate, with a population of over eighty-thousand Palestinians in addition to the forty-thousand people living in the towns and villages in its immediate vicinity. In the period between the UN Partition Resolution (UNGA 181) of 29 November 1947, and declaration of Israel,Zionist military forces displaced ninety-five percent of Jaffa's indigenous Arab Palestinian population. Jaffa's refugees accounted for fifteen percent of Palestinian refugees in that year, and today they are dispersed across the globe still banned from returning by Israel that is responsible for their displacement.
Jaffa was the epicenter of the Palestinian economy before the 1948 Nakba. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the people of Jaffa had cultivated citrus fruit, particularly oranges International demand for Jaffa oranges propelled the city onto the world stage, and earned the city an important place in the global economy. By the 1930s, Jaffa was exporting tens of millions of citrus crates to the rest of the world, which provided thousands of jobs for the people in the city and its environs, and linked them to the major commercial centers of the Mediterranean coast and the European continent.
Jaffa was also the cultural capital of Palestine, being home to tens of the most important newspapers and publish houses in the country, including the daily Filastin and al-Difa' newspapers. The most important cinemas were in Jaffa, as well as tens of athletics clubs and cultural societies. The headquarters of some of these societies, like the Orthodox Club and the Islamic Club, became historical sites and still testify the city's cultural history. With its growing cultural importance Jaffa became a growing cultural centre and interconnected with the main cultural centers in the region such as Cairo and Beirut, which further established the city as a cultural minaret in the region – lovingly dubbed the Bride of the Sea.
Khamees Al Hadad , the head of Jaffa Lawyers Union, 67, was forced to flee Jaffa with his family in 1948, lives in Jordan nowadays, expressed his ongoing eagerness to return to Palestine. He documented Jaffa history on a special page on the face book entitled " Jaffa Nostalgias". It contains a lot of pictures for Jaffa before and after Nakba.
The story of Jaffa's Nakba is the story of transformation of this thriving modern urban center into a marginalized neighborhood suffering from poverty, discrimination, gentrification, crime and demolition since the initial wave of mass expulsion in 1948 to the present day.
The Early Years of Jaffa's Nakba
Zionist forces initiated a cruel siege on the city of Jaffa in March 1948. The youth of the city formed popular resistance committees to confront the assault. On 14 May 1948, the Bride of the Sea fell under the Zionist military forces; in the same evening the leaders of the Zionist movement in Palestine declared establishment of the state of Israel. Approximately four thousand of the one hundred and twenty thousand Palestinians managed to remain in their city after it was militarily occupied. They were all rounded up and ghettoized in al-'Ajami neighborhood which was sealed off from the rest of the city and administered as a military prison for two subsequent years; the military regime under which Israel governed them lasted until 1966. During this period, al-'Ajami was completely surrounded by barbed wire fencing that was patrolled by Israeli soldiers and guard dogs. It was not long before the new Jewish residents of Jaffa, and based on their experience under Nazism in Europe, began to refer to the Palestinian neighborhood as the “ghetto.”
In addition to being ghettoized, the Palestinians who remained in Jaffa had lost everything overnight: their city, their friends, their families, their properties, and their entire physical and social environment. Most had lost their homes as the Israeli military forced them into al-'Ajami. Legislator, judge and executioner in the 'Ajami ghetto were the military commanders; without their permission, one could not enter or leave the ghetto. Rights like education and work were among those that Palestinians were prevented. Arab states were classified as enemies, and so, making contact with the expelled family and friends , was strictly prohibited. This was the nightmare lived with the Palestinians in Jaffa after the 1948 Nakba.
Ms. Rabeiha Shaaban who lives in Canada expressed her deep sorrow for being expelled from Jaffa in 1948, she said " I have recognized many of my family members on the Face Book webpage ."
After expelling most of Jaffa's residents, militarily occupying the city and ghettoizing the remaining original inhabitants, Israeli authorities passed the Absentee Property Law (1950) through which it seized the properties of all Palestinians who were not in possession of their immovable properties after the Nakba. Through implementing this unjust law, Israel sent its operatives to all corners of the land, surveying the properties left by the expelled refugees, the internally displaced Palestinians were banned from returning to their lands, and relocated to the ghettos in other Palestinian cities. Title to these lands, buildings, homes, factories, farms and religious sites were then transferred to the state's “Custodian of Absentee Property.” This is how the Palestinians of Jaffa, the refugees and the ghettoized's, properties had “legally” been stolen by Israel.
The most pressing issue facing Palestinians in Jaffa today is the issue of housing and eviction. Every Palestinian in Jaffa is either directly facing eviction by the municipal authorities, or has a neighbor or relative who faces such eviction, an estimated total of over five-hundred families are in this situation. The two main excuses for eviction are lack of licensing – especially since licenses are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain – or that the family is considered illegal squatters in their own home which is registered as state property.
The most prominent landmarks in Jaffa are :
Hassan Bek Mosque is considered one of the most well-known mosques located in Jaffa. It was built in 1916, by Jaffa's Turkish-Arab governor of the same name.
St. Peter's Church is a Franciscan Church in Jaffa. It was built in 1654 in dedication to Saint Peter over a medieval citadel that was erected by Frederick II and restored by Louis IX of France at the beginning of the second half of the thirteenth century.
Saraya (Ottoman building)