Ajami (Arabic: حي العجمي, Hebrew: עג'מי) is a predominantly Arab neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, situated south of Old Jaffa and north of the Jabaliyya neighborhood on the Mediterranean Sea.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Gentrification projects
- 4 Landmarks
- 5 Tourism and recreation
- 6 Notable residents
- 7 Film
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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.
Ottoman and British eras
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, 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, in the middle of Ajami neighborhood.
The neighborhood’s houses were built from limestone surrounded by large courtyards, reflecting the economic ability of its Maronite residents. 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 
Ajami played a significant role in the history of Jaffa including the Israeli War of Independence 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. 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.
State of Israel
Over the years, Ajami became run-down and neglected, and was reported to be the lowest-income neighborhood in Tel Aviv-Jaffa despite being known for its palatial villas and unique architectural styles prior to 1948. The neighborhood suffers from a severe housing crisis and drug-use.
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 Arab 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. Since the start of the gentrification process, many wealthy Jewish Israelis have moved into the neighborhood.
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. 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.
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. 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. In November 2010, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected the appeal and upheld the continuation of the project.
The Maronite Church
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, in the middle the neighborhood.
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. Under British rule, Ajami Mosque was the only mosque open for daily prayers. 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.
Arab-Jewish community center
Ajami is the location of the Jaffa AJCC, a municipal community center in Tel Aviv-Jaffa catering to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations in the city. 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.
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.
Tourism and recreation
"The Old Man and the Sea" is a popular Arab seafood restaurant in the southern part of Ajami. 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.
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. To neighborhood residents, it is a city landmark. Geday is writing a history of the neighborhood.
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.
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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 'Ajami.|
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