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Fuad Abu Hamed’s photography project

July 13, 2011

I’m pleased to be on the mailing list of Fuad Abu Hamed, a social activist in East Jerusalem. His announcements and insights are alway interesting.

This morning he announced the beginning of what he calls “The Camera Project”, in which he has decided he needs to show people things in East Jerusalem that need improvement. “My purpose”, he writes, “is to improve things, and not at all to criticize”. I’m honored that he has allowed me to blog his project.

The first installment is about bus stops. He writes:

In recent months the municipality has installed many dozens of sleek new bus stops all over the city. I don’t know how many were installed in the eastern sections, but in my neighborhood there are none. In Um Tuba they have installed one. I’m enclosing pictures of a brand new bustop in Arnona [a Jewish neighborhood] and in Um Tuba. They were both installed on the same day. The sidewalk in Arnona hasn’t been paved yet but it probably will be soon”

The photo on the right is Arnona. The other two are Um Tuba (click to enlarge)

So far, the facts – and I’ve no doubt the photos are in no way manipulated.

What do they show, beyond the obvious disparities? First, that Arnona gets sleek new bus stops, while Um Tuba get’s a second-hand old one, most likely a hand-me-down now that new ones are being put up in the west.

Second, that the basic infrastructure in the west can accommodate a sleek new structure; the infrastructure in the east can’t accommodate even the old one. And note the pavement of the road in Um Tuba.

Third, that this time around, someone at least thought of the east and made some minimal effort. What this proves, however, is not in the eye of the beholder. Rather, it’s a factual matter: is the municipality under Nir Barkat at least beginning to make an effort, or is it not and the installation in Um Tuba is offensive for being unequal? I have no way of knowing, offhand. For that you’d need access to the decision-makers  or to their documentation.

Fourth, the fact that the ministry of installing bus stops deals only with bus stops, not with road paving, what does that prove? Is it better to install a hand-me-down next to a primitive road, or re-do the entire road and only then install the bus stops? How one answers this tells more about one’s politics than about reality.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. T34 permalink
    July 13, 2011 5:22 pm

    A couple of questions for context:
    Isn’t Arnona fairly upscale, even by Israeli-Jewish standards? (I’m judging from the Wikipedia article)
    What are the poorer Haredi neighborhoods getting?

    Additionally, are any of the administrative documents available (not even the early years) or only the minutes of politicians being politicians?

  2. July 13, 2011 5:35 pm

    Arnona is indeed upscale. Yet this isn’t really relevant, since bus stops get installed on sidewalks, irrespective of the size of the adjacent apartments of the greenery of the gardens.

    Not all the bus stops in town are being replaced, of course, but Fuad’s point seems accurate to me.

    I haven’t yet checked which documents are available and which not. Off-hand I expect the ones from less than 35-40 years ago are almost certainly not accessible via thecity archives. Still, there are ways to find such things out, and they’re the kind of thing I intend to find out.

    Oh, and by the way: as neighborhoods in Jerusalem go, Arnona and Um Tuba aren’t far from each other. They’re both in the south-east part of town. Of course, Arnona has been there for about 80 years or at least Koreh Hadorot st. where that bustop is, while Um Tuba was a very little village in 1967 and is now not small at all. This, however, also isn’t really relevant to the bostop issue.

    • boldface permalink
      July 13, 2011 9:18 pm

      It’s interesting — I went to Google maps to get sense of how far apart the neighborhoods are. Google shows, but doesn’t label, the streets in Umm Tuba (or Sur Baher, for that matter). But it does label the streets in Har Homa, which is right next to Umm Tuba. I wonder why that is. I also noticed that the 1949 armistice line runs west and north of Umm Tuba, though that shouldn’t be decisive of anything for the Jm municipality.

      • July 13, 2011 11:31 pm

        I have no idea why Google Earth does that – or rather, I’ve got a hunch, but I’ll need to check it.

        The 1949 line should be irrelevant, you’d think, if Israel has annexed the other side of it. The reality, of course, is more complex.

  3. Imshin, Tel Aviv permalink
    July 13, 2011 9:56 pm

    I hve noticed that in South Tel Aviv, where I work, the municipality often erects metal bus stops, as opposed to posher glass ones in the north of the city, where I live. I think this is because they have a tendency of being defaced, smashed and burnt in the poorer south of the city. I’ve seen this vandalism happen, more than once. Considering the many instances of stone throwing in East Jerusalem, this could be the case in Jerusalem as well.

    • July 13, 2011 11:52 pm

      I just got back from my evening run, which meandered through Katamon (mostly upscale), Katamonim (not upscale), Talbiyeh (very upscale), and Bakaa (previously not upscale but now well into gentrification). Alerted by Fuad’s photos, I observed the bustops along the way. I saw at least four different types, perhaps five or six, depending on the resolution of your comparision. There were brand new snazzy ones, brand new slightly less snazzy ones, glass ones, other glass ones, metal ones, and other metal ones.

      If there was any sense to it I couldn’t say, unless it’s the chronology. Different years the municipality purchases different bustops, and installs them according to some schedule determined by some fellow.

      The point of Fuad’s report, however, is that the two bustops were both installed the same day (or week). Arnona gets a snazzy new one which fits neatly into its slot; Umm Tuba gets an old one, and it doesn’t fit at all.

      It may be different in Tel Aviv, but me, I haven’t yet figured out Jerusalem, so I’ll leave TelAviv to someone else t oexplain :~)

  4. Nycerbarb permalink
    July 14, 2011 5:30 am

    Please don’t misunderstand my question, here.

    How politically integrated is Umm Tuba and its residents with the rest of the city?

    Here in NYC, Manhattan is treated better than the outer boroughs. And some neighborhoods better than others – and it is because of the political activity at the very local level. We have city council reps by district and also community boards. So we have someone very local to contact with neighborhood issues, who can then deal with the relevant agencies. My point is, if you aren’t getting services in NYC, you do have ways to advocate for them.

    Also, our various city agencies have public relations departments, and they are sensitive to critcism (somewhat). But a citizen has a place to ask questions and get information.

    Do you have anything similar in Jerusalem?

    Now, after reading you (and others) all these years, I realize engaging with the Jerusalem municipality for an Arab living in an area formerly controlled by Jordan is a very dicey subject, with a lot of baggage attached. Of course, someone in the Bronx doesn’t have those issues to deal with.

    Nonetheless, do the Arab villages have a way to access the government? Do they participate? If they do, and they are still underserved, clearly something is wrong on the part of the municipality. OTOH, if they eschew the municipality, then the fault for the disparity seems to be more shared, at least in my opinion.


    • July 14, 2011 11:33 pm

      That one can’t be honestly answered in a comment. They people in Umm Tuba – as in the rest of East Jerusalem – don’t vote, although they have the right to. That creates a profound disparity, of course.

      Could they vote? Yes. There’s no danger. Some 4000 of them did vote last time – and the other 100K-plus didn’t.

      Do they have access etc? Sort of. Fuad does; he knows all the relevant officials better than most people in town. Does it help? Sort of… and that’s all I’ll say about the matter this evening.

  5. Sylvia permalink
    July 14, 2011 11:24 pm

    I think it depends how much the local authorities are willing to contribute to a bus stop boot, if at all. I think the income level of the local population is very relevant. If the municipality is in the red (people lag on their water local tax payments, etc.) or the municipality doesn’t think it’s a top priority, it might not even put a boot for years until complaints start pouring.
    There are “second hand” bus stops available now since they started replacing them with the concrete bus shelters in Otef Aza.

  6. Womble permalink
    July 15, 2011 9:34 am

    To be honest, I much prefer the old bus stops with plastic seats. In my experience, that metal bench on new bus stops is NOT fun to place your rear end onto on a superheated Middle Eastern August afternoon.

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