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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Painful History of Wadi Salib

A Confiscated Memory: Wadi Salib and Haifa's Lost HeritageA Confiscated Memory: Wadi Salib and Haifa's Lost Heritage by Yfaat Weiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Wadi Salib was formerly an Arab Muslim neighbor situated in the central part of modern day Haifa. Now a days it houses Mizrachi Jews hailing from the North African country of Morrocco. The book Confiscated memory give the reader a back and forth history of the neighborhood rather then documenting things in Chronological order.

In 1959 Wadi Salib was the focal point of Mizrachi riots. What started out as a drunken man frustrated with his lot who went from coffee shop to coffee shop smashing things up, his friends tried to stop him but the police intervened rather strongly and harshly and ended up shooting the man named Akiva. This would start days worth of riots where in windows were smashed and property was destroyed. Many residents of Wadi Salib were convinced that Akiva was dead. The intellectual leader behind the riots of David Benharush.  He was also organizing an organization for the Mizrachi Jews. Since he was outside the labor party and hsitradut the authorities looked down on them. It was at a Labor party rally bordering on Hadar and Wadi Salib where clashes broke out. In the end David Benharush served a 10 month sentence.

What was the background story for these Moroccan Jews? Why were they so frustrated?  Upon their arrival they were placed in relocation camps like tin corrugated shacks while Jews from Europe were given the better housing and better opportunities. The Mizrachi Jews were not given greart opportunities. They were looked down upon as uneducated and primative. Most of them in Wadi Salib were squatters who did not own the building they were living in. Before the Jews came from Morroco the Jewish agency visited a Jewish Ghetto or Melah and found out how dirty it was and how sick with trachoma the Moroccan Jews were.

The Zionist authorities tried to shunt these Jews off to agricultural settlements in the country side. Many of the Morroccan  Jews did not not have agricualtural skills, plus the community was split up and divided which destroyed their cohesion. In Morrrocco they were merchants and business men while in Israel they were just laborers with no means of advancement.
The Zionists also wanted to discourage city settling andd promote rural settling. This was done to help populate the land, seecure border areas and become agicultuarally independent.

Wadi Salib had it's history as well. Founded by a Bedouin Sheik the area was a tiny port town until some zionists and Europeans thought to build it up. THe Ottoman empire would build up the rail way line connecting Haifa to all the cities in the Middle East and Central Asia. When the Ottomans lost Haifa the Britsih would build up the harbor. Through these building projects amny people would be attracted. Wealthy Muslims, Christians and Jews. Building railroad and port also brought laborers who would build homes near their place of work. Haifa could have been a city of some importance but after Israel's war and her isolation from the rest of the Middle East Haifa was just a qquiet port town.

As mentioned earlier Wadi Salib was a Muslim Arab neighborhood. During 1949 ARab and Jewish forces had divided the city. Fauzi Kaukji's Army which was from outside Palestine would fire ion Jewish areas and the Hagganah would fire on ARab neighborhoods. This had thee effect of cousing many Arabs to flee the area. Haifa fell to the HAgana in days. The remaining Arabs were forces into to Christian neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas. THe abandoned homes would be given to Jews first with a wink and an under the table agreement and later on in the fifties when Morrocan Jews snuck back in because rural settlement did not do it for them.

In all this book is an excellent work, documenting both the history of a neioghborhood and people. It also shows European Zionist contempt for anything comiong from the Middle East . This applies to thier attitude towards the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews from Middle Eastern countries. For those studying the Middle East and even more so for those who focus on Israel then you must read this book.

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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