In the 1940’s, millions of crates of Jaffa’s oranges were being transported around the world as the city boomed. The city was the hub of cultural life in Palestine and home to several newspapers and cinemas. By late 1947 approximately 100,000 people are estimated to have been living in the city. Only one year later that number had dropped by more than 95 per cent – only 4,000 Palestinians remained in Jaffa after the Zionist attacks on the city. Those who did manage to stay, were forced in to “Al-Ajami ghetto” – a Palestinian neighbourhood that was turned into an open air prison surrounded by barbed wire fences and guarded by Zionist militias.
After Palestinians were forced in to Al-Ajami ghetto, their houses were then appropriated by the state under the “Absentee Property Law”. In some cases, these houses were then leased back to Palestinians after they had finally been allowed to leave the ghetto.
Some 67 years later, this ongoing process of displacement and the erasure of the city’s Palestinian identity continues. Under various pretexts, Palestinians are being displaced from the city as original houses are being demolished and replaced with luxury Israeli developments which have become amongst the most expensive real estate in today’s State of Israel.
Walking around southern Tel Aviv and Jaffa today boundaries have been purposely blurred and a visual understanding of the areas Palestinian history becomes confused. However, extensive research has been carried out by Palestinian and Israeli activists including many interviews with Nakba survivors both within the city and scattered around refugee camps and other places of exile where they now live. This has been done to unmask the area’s true history and within the much wider work demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Over the course of three days to mark Nakba Day, a wide range of events were implemented in this context by activists in the city. These events, including walking and boat tours and cultural events revealed something of what the Zionist movement continues to attempt to erase. Jaffa was the heart of Palestine until the Nakba, and today it still remains deeply etched in the hearts of Palestinians around the world.
Images by MEMO photographer Rich Wiles.