From a thriving port town to a socio-ethnic enclave
Keywords:urban heritage, port cities, mixed cities, cultural landscapes, gentrification, preservation
The material extant of the fortifications of Jaffa, the physical markers of memory, narrates the contrasting status and evolution of one of the oldest port towns in Israel: from grandiose to decline, from thriving multicultural neighbourhoods to immigrant communities over time, from town centre to marginalised significance and shifting centralities in the wake of political and economic events. Its town centre, propagating social interaction, existed through complex and evolving agricultural, industrial, and residential land uses. This port town bears a testimony to the dynamic and enormous shifts in land use, communities, and collective social memory. The alternate port of Tel Aviv came into existence during the revolt in 1936-39 by Arabs of Mandatory Palestine. The drastic decline of the Arab population in Jaffa and its environs and the rise in the Jewish population in the new modern city of Tel Aviv was an antagonistic process of negation and exclusion. The asymmetric planning of Tel Aviv that emerged in the early 1900s identified it as uncivilised geography, turning into a dilapidated district. Communal and national identities were built on the premise of antithesis giving rise to significant demographic transformations. This socio-spatial metamorphosis of Tel Aviv-Jaffa became a representational space leading to physical and cognitive boundaries evident in the planning policies. Since the mid-1980s, the spatial overturns have led to the radical restructuring of the urban space through gentrification with political and socio-economic implications such as population displacement and the production of urban alterities. This oxymoron of creative destruction suggests the tensions at the heart of urban life that embodies the erasure and re-inscription of culture and economics. This article will explore the historical evolution of the old port town, cultural geography, and the current state of exclusion and gentrification in Jaffa, and underlines the need for discourse on socio-spatial analysis and assessment for decision-making processes for urban heritage design.