Ajami, Jaffa

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View of Ajami
Ajami from the air in 1932

Ajami (Arabic: حي العجمي‎, Hebrew: עג'מי) is a predominantly Arab neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, situated south of Old Jaffa and north of the Jabaliyya neighborhood on the Mediterranean Sea.


The neighborhood was named after Ibrahim al-Ajami, one of prophet Muhammad's companions. According to a tradition, he was buried in the south of the neighborhood. A mosque constructed at the site in 1895, al-Ajami, is named for him.[1]


Ottoman and British eras[edit]

The Maronite Church in the middle of Ajami neighborhood
Ajami, Jaffa

Ajami was founded during Ottoman rule over Palestine at the end of the 19th century, as a small Maronite Christian settlement. The neighborhood's streets were laid parallel to the coast, with ample houses and small stairway-alleys leading down to the shore. A Maronite monastery and church founded in 1855,[2] stood in the nearby harbor. In 1895, Father Antonios Shbeir Ghostaoui, a monk from the Lebanese Maronite Order, built a new church and a monastery on an area of 1,600 square meters. Later on, between 1901 and 1920, the church was demolished and replaced by a bigger and more attractive one, the first stone of which was laid during a grand ceremony on February 28, 1904. This Maronite church still stands today, and it is located in the south tip of Dolphin Street,[3] in the middle of Ajami neighborhood.[4]

The neighborhood’s houses were built from limestone surrounded by large courtyards, reflecting the economic ability of its Maronite residents.[5] Being an affluent residential area of the upper middle-class, Ajami had been the first neighborhood of Jaffa – in fact in the whole of Palestine - to be swiftly and fully connected to the new electric grid which had been built by the Jaffa Electric Company in 1923 [6]

1947–8 war[edit]

Ajami played a significant role in the history of Jaffa including the 1947–1949 Palestine war and the events of the Nakba. Following the decision by the British Government to end the Mandate for Palestine, violence erupted between the Jewish paramilitary groups (Haganah and Irgun) and Palestinian Arab irregulars.[7] Jaffa witnessed some of the most violent of these encounters. On May 13, 1948, the day before the declaration of the Israeli state, Jaffa surrendered and Palestinian Arab residents were forced to move into Ajami, where they were subject to martial law. By the end of the war, it is estimated that over 90% of Jaffa's Palestinian Arab residents fled. Some 4,000 remained in Jaffa.[8]

State of Israel[edit]

Over the years, Ajami became run-down and neglected,[9] and was reported to be the lowest-income neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Yafo despite being known for its palatial villas and unique architectural styles prior to 1948.[10][11] The neighborhood suffers from a severe housing crisis and drug-use.[12][13]

Gentrification projects[edit]

Restored historic building

Despite these socio-economic problems and the neighborhood's severe housing crisis, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality drew up plans to develop the neighborhood, which subsequently increased housing prices and led to the exodus of a growing number of Palestinian residents. Many of Ajami's Arab residents feel that they have come to suffer under Tel Aviv-Yafo's Municipality's plans to 'develop' the neighborhood.[14][15] Since the start of the gentrification process, many wealthy Jewish Israelis have moved into the neighborhood.[16][17]

In addition, some 497 eviction and demolition orders have been served by the Amidar, Israel's government-operated public housing company, targeting Ajami and Jabaliyya residents.[14][18][19] Ajami residents claim that this is a result of discriminatory policies which date back to the establishment of the Israeli state, but the Amidar company says they are illegal squatters.[20]

The housing crisis developed political overtones when one of the housing projects, B'emuna, said its apartments would be sold only to members of the religious-Zionist community.[21] In February 2010, the Tel Aviv District Court dismissed a stop work petition presented by 27 Ajami residents, which argued that the stipulation that housing in the project be available only to religious Jews discriminated against the neighborhood’s Arab residents.[22][23] In November 2010, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected the appeal and upheld the continuation of the project.[24]


Falastin newspaper headquarters in Ajami neighborhood, 1938

The Maronite Church[edit]

The Maronite Church of Ajami, Jaffa.

First established in 1895, by Father Antonios Shbeir Ghostaoui, a monk from the Lebanese Maronite Order, this Church replaced an even older church and monastery founded in 1855 and formerly located in the nearby harbor. The Maronite Church of Ajami is located in the south tip of Dolphin Street,[3] in the middle the neighborhood.[4]

Al-Ajami Mosque[edit]

Al-Ajami Mosque in Jaffa

The Ajami Mosque was established by Haj Yousef-Al-Manawi in 1895 on the shrine of Sheikh Ibrahim-Al-Ajami. It is located in the northern part of Ajami next to the Hassan Arafeh public school.[25] Under British rule, Ajami Mosque was the only mosque open for daily prayers.[26] The mosque and the adjoining school were previously owned by the Islamic Waqf, until the Israeli authorities annulled their status as Waqf property under Israel's Absentee's Property Law.[26]

Arab-Jewish community center[edit]

The Arab Jewish Community Center in Ajami

Ajami is the location of the Jaffa AJCC, a municipal community center in Tel Aviv-Yafo catering to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations in the city.[27] The center was established in 1993, bringing together conflicting populations and educating towards reconciliation, recognition and cooperation. Both facilitated and unmediated encounters take place at the center between members of Jaffa’s diverse ethnic and age groups, including children from Jewish and Arab kindergartens, elementary and high school students, and adults.[28]

Peres Center for Peace[edit]

Peres Center for Peace

The Peres Center for Peace, located in the southern tip of Ajami, opened in December 2009 after 10 years of planning and construction. The building (2,500 sq.m.), a distinctive architectural landmark on the Jaffa coast, was designed by Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas.[29]

Tourism and recreation[edit]

"The Old Man and the Sea" is a popular Arab seafood restaurant in the southern part of Ajami.[30][31] Abu Hassan is a small hummus restaurant located on the northern tip of Ajami. It was opened in 1959 by Ali Karawan and now has two additional branches in Jaffa.[32]

Notable residents[edit]

Fakhry Geday, born in the Ajami neighborhood in 1926, is a pharmacist, owner of the Al-Kamal Pharmacy that has been in the same location from the time of the British Mandate.[33] To neighborhood residents, it is a city landmark.[34] Geday is writing a history of the neighborhood.[10][35][36][37]

Omar Siksik, also born in Ajami, owns a local hardware store. He is the founder and chair of the Committee for the Arabs of Jaffa, and was recently elected to represent Jaffa in Tel Aviv–Yafo Municipality's city council.[38][39]


The 2009 Israeli film Ajami directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani was nominated as a foreign language film for the 2010 Academy Awards. Many characters in the film were played by non-professional actors who live in Ajami.[40]

Jaffa slope1821.jpg


  1. ^ ArchNet, Al-Ajami Neighborhood, archived from the original on 2012-05-09, retrieved 2010-03-06
  2. ^ [1] Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate Jerusalem. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  3. ^ a b The Maronite church Jaffa. Israel Traveler, Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  4. ^ a b Hayy al-'Ajami Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine. ArchNet. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  5. ^ Hayy al-'Ajami Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine. ArchNet, Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  6. ^ Shamir, Ronen (2013) Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine. Stanford: Stanford University Press
  7. ^ Al-Qattan, Omar (2007). "The Secret Visitations of Memory". In Sa'di, Ahmad H.; Abu-Lughod, Lila (eds.). Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-231-50970-1.
  8. ^ Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. p. 358.
  9. ^ Friedman, Ron (2009-12-18). "Peres Center Arrives Alongside Ajami". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
  10. ^ a b LeBor, Adam (2006). City of Oranges: Arabs and Jews in Jaffa. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-7475-8602-9.
  11. ^ Humphries, Isabelle. "The Nakba Continues: The Ethnic Cleansing of Jaffa's Ajami Neighborhood". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  12. ^ "مئات المستوطنين يجتاحون البيوت العربية في يافا ويرددون "يجب طرد العرب"". لبلاب. 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2010-10-28.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "صباح الخير يافا - شعارات "كهانا تسداك" (كهانا كان على حق) تملئ جدران يافا". Yaffa Today. 2010-10-26. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  14. ^ a b Galili, Lily (2007-12-23). "First We'll Take Ajami". Ha'aretz. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  15. ^ Abdel-Kader, Samira. "Development or Expulsion?". MakoMakan. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  16. ^ Kloosterman, Karin (2009-11-29). "Changes in the Air of Ajami". The Jerusalem Post.
  17. ^ Solomon, Erika (2010-01-13). "Dream location, legal nightmare as Jaffa gentrifies". Reuters. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  18. ^ Anarchists against the wall. "Home Jaffa house demolition prevented, threat still pending". Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  19. ^ "No to house demolitions!". Abnaa-Albalad. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  20. ^ Hai, Yigal (2007-04-27). "Protesters rally in Jaffa against move to evict local Arab families". Ha'aretz. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  21. ^ "פרוייקט יפו לציבור דתי לאומי". Kipa.co.il.
  22. ^ Hartman, Ben (2010-07-19). "Jaffa residents protest 'Jews-only' housing project". JPost. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  23. ^ مواسي, حسن (2010-07-18). "فلسطينيو الـ48 يتظاهرون ضد تهويد حي العجمي في يافا". Al-Arabeya. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  24. ^ "Court rejects Ajami residents' Land Authority petition". The Jerusalem Post. 7 November 2010.
  25. ^ Hassan Arafeh school
  26. ^ a b Yazbak, Mahmoud (2010). "The Islamic Waqf in Yaffa and the Urban Space: From the Ottoman State to the State of Israel" (PDF). Makan: Adalah's Journal for Land, Planning and Justice. The Right to a Spatial Narrative. Adalah.org. 2: 23–46 [38]. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
  27. ^ "The Arab Jewish Community Center". Archived from the original on 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  28. ^ The Arab-Jewish Community Center, archived from the original on 2010-04-29, retrieved 2010-04-16
  29. ^ Ron Friedman (2009-12-18), "Peres Center arrives alongside Ajami", The Jerusalem Post
  30. ^ Dilson, Jacob. "The Old Man and The Sea: A Locally Owned Middle Eastern Restaurant on Israel's Mediterranean Coastline in Jaffa, Tel Aviv". Dining Hall Digest. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  31. ^ Malmad, Yael. "הזקן והדג: איפה אוכלים דגים טובים במחיר הוגן ביפו?". NRG. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  32. ^ "Abu Hassan, the glorious Jaffa's hummus". The Hummus Blog. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  33. ^ "City Guide Tel-Aviv". Retrieved 2010-10-21.
  34. ^ Geday, Fakhry. "Jaffa". This Week in Palestine. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  35. ^ Farnsworth, Elizabeth. "Palestinian Refugees". PBS. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
  36. ^ Gershom, Gorenberg (27 May 2007). "City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa - Adam Lebor - Book Review". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
  37. ^ Wu'adeh, Wadee' (2008-05-17). "Yaffa - Bride of the Sea". Al-Jazeera. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  38. ^ פרץ, ספיר (2000-10-23). "רוצים כבר להגיד תפאדל". Ynet. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  39. ^ Waked, Ali (2008-08-28). "Paralyzed Gaza girl celebrates birthday in Jaffa". Ynet. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  40. ^ Brown, Hannah (2010-02-02), "'Ajami' nominated for Oscar", The Jerusalem Post

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°02′42″N 34°45′00″E / 32.04500°N 34.75000°E / 32.04500; 34.75000