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Palestinian fishermen struggle to survive next door to Netanyahu’s palatial suburb

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“So I want you to know, Barack, that you’ll always be a welcome guest in Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking with President Obama at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, a few blocks from Rockefeller Center and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

The Prime Minister continues: “And, by the way, I don’t play golf, but right next to my home in Caesarea, in Israel, is a terrific golf course.”

It’s true that Caesarea, an ancient Roman port that’s now a high-income suburb, is known for its golf greens. But caddies aren’t the Prime Minister’s only neighbors.

The day before the exchange at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, Khalid Jurban is dripping as he steps out of the ocean. He shakes the worn plastic crate and ten skinny fish slip around the bottom.

Khalid Jurban's catch (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

Khalid Jurban’s catch (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

“Look,” he says, his dreadlock-framed face showing exasperation. Today’s catch is too small to sell. Khalid dumps the fish from the crate, rinses them and sets them on the barbecue. Before going off to shower, he turns.

“Have you seen Netanyahu’s house?” he asks, jokingly. “See? Here there are Palestinians and Israelis living right beside.”

Khalid is a fisherman in Jisr al-Zarqa, the only town on the coast of Israel today with an entirely Arab population. But despite being on the Mediterranean, Jisr al-Zarqa is trapped. Fourteen thousand residents occupy a little 1.5 square kilometer strip of coastline, pushed up against the sea by Highway 2. The town is squeezed by a kibbutz from the north and by Caesarea from the south. A few hundred meters away from luxurious Caesarea and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s private residence, 80 percent of families in Jisr al-Zarqa are living below the poverty line.

Khalid and his neighbors eat the day’s catch with toasted Arab pita and briny olives at a wood picnic table, just off the beach. The row of beachside homes that comprise the fishermen’s quarter of Jisr al-Zarqa – qariya al-saeediin – is a mix of old stone and sheet metal structures. The houses are solid. The fishermen are quick to point out the stark contrast between their homes and that of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Jisr al-Zarqa is another world. The average income in Jisr al-Zarqa is half of the Israeli average and at least one third of the town’s residents are unemployed. It has some of the highest crime rates in the country. The primary entrance to the town is a tunnel under Highway 2, originally built to carry water, not cars. A mural decorates the outside entrance to the tunnel. There is a dove, a sunset, calming waves and a sign that warns incoming traffic of a 3.8-meter height limit.

After lunch, Khalid sits inside on a wood stool. He weaves a long, black rope through the edge of yard after yard of turquoise fishing net. His teenage son, Jamal, comes and goes, feeding scraps to the dog outside. Jamal’s bleached dreadlocks match his father’s. But neither Khalid nor Jamal expresses any hope or desire for the teenager to work as a fisherman himself.

Fishing was once a reliable source of income in Jisr al-Zarqa. Over the past thirty years, the lifestyle of Khalid and his fellow fishermen has become a struggle against declining fish stocks and dropping prices.

“There are so few fish, many fishermen have gone outside [the village] for other work,” says Musa Jurban, one of Khalid’s neighbors.

Musa Jurban (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

Musa Jurban (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

The Local Council of Jisr al-Zarqa cites increasing pollution, overfishing by larger commercial vessels and disruptions to the marine habitat as the chief reasons behind the declining fish population.

Residents of Jisr al-Zarqa now mostly look inland for work. Given the physical borders of Caesarea, Kibbutz Maagan Michael and Highway two, however, there isn’t much room for economic growth inside the village.

Jisr al-Zarqa mayor Morad Amash (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

Jisr al-Zarqa mayor Morad Amash (Photo: Skylar Lindsay)

“For normal living, we need to double the size of the village,” says Jisr al-Zarqa mayor Morad Amash. He sits in an office in a simple compound, a five-minute walk from the beach.

Master plans for the town have been continually stopped by bureaucracy and funding problems. Outside planners also often fail to consult with the community. One plan which Amash sees as less-than-viable recommends shifting the highway slightly east – an extremely costly project and exceptionally short-sighted, given the town’s high growth rate.

“The government talks about distributing 700 million shekels to build public buildings, but if I get even 7 million shekels, where will I build?” says Amash.

The Mayor describes the resulting morning routine: at 5 A.M., twenty to thirty buses arrive in the middle of town to carry workers to Tel Aviv, Haifa and economic centers outside the village. Public transportation only reached the town three years ago. Now, the majority of commuters are women – Jisr al-Zarqa is one of the main sources of women for menial labor in the region’s hospitals and universities. No one mentions whether anybody is commuting to the golf courses in Caesarea.

Amash is blunt about his views on the contrast between Jisr al-Zarqa and their neighbors. On the south edge of town, a long, earth barrier separates Jisr al-Zarqa from Caesarea.

“Nine meters high,” says Amash, in clear and deliberate English. “The goal was to prevent the rich of Caesarea from seeing the poverty. Instead of helping to improve the situation, they choose to build a wall.”

The Caesarea Development Corporation supposedly built the barrier to block out noise, including the sound of calls to prayer from mosques in Jisr al-Zarqa. The barrier also marks a line between “haves” and “have-nots”: in terms of opportunities, resources and even life expectancy.

Jisr al-Zarqa has one of the lowest life expectancies in the country. Says Amash, “In Israel, they started to pay pensions beginning at age 67, but here, people don’t live to be 59.”

The situation for youth in Jisr al-Zarqa is not much better. Fifteen percent of students passed the high school exit exam this year, and the percentage is dropping. Last year 23 percent passed, and the year before it was 26 percent.

Jisr al-Zarqa hasn’t always been cut off from the land around it. Current residents trace their heritage to the Ghawarnah tribe, from the Jordan Valley. These Ghawarnah Arabs were farmers, working the swampy land that is now Kibbutz Maagan Michael and keeping herds of camels and oxen. On maps from the Ottoman Empire, the area was labeled al-Arab al-Ghawarnii for its residents.

During the years of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate, there were seven grain mills, or tawahiin, lining the river on Jisr al-Zarqa’s northern border.

“The river was crystal blue,” says Ghanem Yaacoubi, a consultant for the Mayor’s Office. “Farmers would come to grind wheat. Someone would ask, ‘Where are you going?’ and one would say, ‘To the bridge over the blue water.’”

The town came to be known as Jisr al-Zarqa – “The Bridge Over the Blue,” roughly. The river is now known as Nahr Taninim, the Crocodile River.

When Jewish settlers began to arrive, they needed al-Arab al-Ghawarnii to work the land, to dry up the swamps.

Says Amash, “The people here, they became a little like slaves. That’s one of the reasons that Jisr al-Zarqa stayed [through 1948].”

The Arabs made ideal laborers in part because they showed resistance to organisms and diseases living in the swamps.

“They learned to protect themselves, to take mud from the swamps and cover their skin,” says Yaacoubi.

Khalil Jurban (Photo: Skylar Lindsey)

Khalil Jurban (Photo: Skylar Lindsey)

Today, Khalil Jurban is one of the oldest fishermen in Jisr Al-Zarqa. He claims that, while it may not make much money, a life in the boats and on the beach has made him stronger.

He no longer goes out to fish. Instead, he prepares nets for Musa, Khalid and others, taking weeks to weave a rope through 400 or 500 meters of net and to attach metal weights and buoys. Khalid and Musa will set their nets out at night, dropping them around sunset, and return just before dawn to haul them in.

“People still come in the morning to the beach, at seven or eight, from Tel Aviv, Caesarea, everywhere, to buy the fish,” says Musa.

Despite the challenges facing the village, the fishermen of Jisr al-Zarqa maintain a sense of pride. The sentiment is similar up in the Mayor’s office. Left without too many other options, Amash does his best to keep up hope.

Skylar Lindsay

Skylar Lindsay is a writer and photographer publishing on social justice, travel, food, and human rights issues. A Seattle native, he studied Peace & Conflict at Colgate University. Read his latest work at here. @SkylarLindsay.

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24 Responses

  1. Jackdaw on September 23, 2016, 3:59 pm

    Maybe things in Jisr aren’t as bad as Skylar makes them out to be.

    Since half of the town’s residents are children, the good people of Jisr al Zirkah might have been able to raise their standard of living by having less children.

    Oh. BTW Skylar, the Ghawarnah tribe, like many Palestinians emigrated from Egypt during the mid 1800’s.
    Didn’t you know that?

    • annie on September 23, 2016, 4:11 pm

      the Ghawarnah tribe, like many Palestinians emigrated from Egypt during the mid 1800’s.

      what’s your source on that? because this book on Tribes and Territories claims they descended from fellaheen tribes from the ghor (jordan valley).

      might have been able to raise their standard of living by having less children.

      how gross you are.

      • Jackdaw on September 23, 2016, 4:45 pm

        How gross I am? Gross enough to have had two kids and shown some restraint afterwards. How many kids do you have? Eleven?

        BTW, having kids you can’t afford to raise is idiotic whether you’re Jew or Arab.

        Egyptian immigrants.

      • annie on September 23, 2016, 5:00 pm

        jack, your source is a nakba denial book (other people who purchased this book purchased joan peters nakba denial book), a “positive” review :

        “He demonstrates that there is no historical evidence for the eviction of the Palestinians from Israel previous to the founding of the state. Most of those who left afterwards did so on their own volition.”


        For all those who claim a “Palestinian state” or a “Palestininan people” existed before the jews came back to the area, this book is of the utmost importance. It shows clearly, and proofs with data, that no such thing as a Palestinian state/people ever existed in the area.

        a negative reviewer:

        1.0 out of 5 stars A shameful fraud of a book, August 18, 2005
        By Edward Smith
        This review is from: The Claim of Dispossession: Jewish Land-Settlement and the Arabs, 1878-1948 (Paperback)
        This book is an example of an anti-intellectual propaganda movement born inside Israel that aims to disprove the existance of palestinians. The idea behind works of this sort is that if the claims of Palestinians to the land they live on can be weakened, unthinkable measures such as mass deportations will become possible.

        The book starts with an argument that what is now Israel was empty land before european jews started to arrive in the mid 1800s. That every census and every bit of historical data invalidates that absurd idea does not bother the author in the least. The same old story is repeated: There were no palestinians. Almost all arabs in what is now Israel are claimed to be savage migrants from surrounding countries who were drawn to the great european civilization brought into palestine by the early zionists. He draws greatly on the universally discredited work “from time Immemorial” by peters in support of his case. As usual, anti-arab european sources are quoted to show how what is today Israel was a wasteland. The problem with how those sources are used is that they could be used to draw the same conclusion about every other country in the middle east. Europeans saw every country outside europe as savage uneconomic wastelands in that colonial era. The writer fails to make the case that Palestine was especially different.

        The worst problem the book faces is that none of the census data validates its claims. The census data shows a consistantly increasing native palestinian population. Peters’ work was demolished years ago. Neither the British Archives nor any other source confirms any of the outragous claims made.

        The book then moves on to the 1948 war. It makes the rather incredible claim that the all the palestinian refugees were not refugees at all. They all voluntarily decided to leave their towns! The war didn’t matter. Civilian massacres didn’t matter. They all just decided to leave. When looking for a reason, the best Avneri can come up with is that they all deserted their homes as part of the sinister arab conspiracy(tm). They left their homes and became refugees so the arab armies could better destroy Israel. Further, they were all expecting to share in some sort of loot after the war was won so their homes didn’t matter to them. It makes no sense to anyone outside the close world of the Israeli right.

        The book might find use as a doorstop, but aside from that its of no value to anyone. Those who agree with its ideas will learn nothing new, at best it can provide reinforcement to a closed mind.

        Anyone else is going to see through to the political agenda of the author and the false nature of the work…..

        i suppose you know by now nakba denial is a banning offense on this website. try peddling your crap elsewhere. and do you think if they had less kids israel would have provided basic public transportation to the village, or garbage pickup?

      • Mooser on September 23, 2016, 6:23 pm

        “Gross enough to have had two kids and shown some restraint afterwards.”

        Barely replacement rate.

      • Mooser on September 23, 2016, 6:28 pm

        “BTW, having kids you can’t afford to raise is idiotic”

        Israel needs those kids, “Jackdaw”, and will support as many as you can make. Your “restraint” is robbing the IDF of it’s best material.

      • talknic on September 23, 2016, 8:46 pm

        Jackdaw Ziodumps then in desperation wades around in it

        @ Jackdaw September 23, 2016, 4:45 pm

        “How gross I am? Gross enough to have had two kids and shown some restraint afterwards”

        That’s 50% buddy. Don’t they teach basic maths in Ziomoron school?

      • MLE on September 24, 2016, 12:55 pm

        Having too many kids is gross… Then what about the Hassids who have tons of kids and get government support?

      • gamal on September 24, 2016, 5:35 pm

        “BTW, having kids you can’t afford to raise is idiotic”

        I have always wondered why wombs aren’t coin operated. “afford” no one can afford kids, they are cosmic what happened to you, soulless freak.

        Typee: by Herman Melville, read it! that epic failure and greatest American of all time, he shouldn’t have gone to yellow stone with Hawthorne but there was no issue….just a blank sheet.

    • echinococcus on September 23, 2016, 4:35 pm

      How is any Palestinian’s regional network any of a dirty Zionist’s f*&^% business, Jack*&&?

    • talknic on September 23, 2016, 8:28 pm

      Watching Zioidiots is so amusing

      @ Jackdaw September 23, 2016, 3:59 pm

      “Maybe things in Jisr aren’t as bad as Skylar makes them out to be.

      1st paragraph..

      Jisr az-Zarqa is a place of starkly apparent isolation and poverty

      “Since half of the town’s residents are children, the good people of Jisr al Zirkah might have been able to raise their standard of living by having less children”

      How Naziesque. Thanks for showing folk just how low you’re willing to sink on behalf of Israel’s ongoing illegal colonization of Palestine

      One woman and one man, two children = 50% children.

      Say … by your criteria, if Jews had less children, less of our fellows would have been killed in the Holocaust

      • Jackdaw on September 24, 2016, 1:30 am

        My criteria is that my kids should get the best education money can buy. My criteria is that I don’t have to stand in the street with my hand out. My criteria , when people tell me and my wife to ‘make more babies’, is to silently tell these busybodies to go fuck off.

        Annie. Your distractions aside, this clan either migrated from Egypt or were Sudanese slaves brought to the region as slaves. Take your pick.

      • annie on September 24, 2016, 11:36 am

        when people tell me and my wife to ‘make more babies

        my distractions aside? jack, you’ve taken the cake here for distractions.

        Take your pick.

        so besides the joan peters copy cat you have no references to back up your distraction, got it. nada — finito

      • Mooser on September 24, 2016, 11:41 am

        “One woman and one man, two children = 50% children.”

        And the Palestinian population is now more than the Zionist population for the first time since the Nakba!

        Thanks “Jackdaw” for helping to bring that about.

      • Jackdaw on September 25, 2016, 12:20 am

        You don’t have to look to far to find Nazis.

        When is Mondoweiss going to publish an article about all the Jews, religious and otherwise, who live below the poverty line?

      • Jackdaw on September 25, 2016, 12:23 am

        Joan Peters was a fraud. Her book, however, was 3/4 accurate.

        Avneiri’s book, is 90+% accurate.

        But who cares, about the accuracy of the books, they burn so brightly when Annie tosses them into the bonfire.

      • Keith on September 25, 2016, 3:49 pm

        JACKDAW- “When is Mondoweiss going to publish an article about all the Jews, religious and otherwise, who live below the poverty line?”

        Indeed, it would be interesting to see unbiased data involving Jewish income distribution versus other groups. Part of the problem would be to identify who is a Jew. The primary folks who keep track of this sort of thing are the Jewish organizations. A Gentile who even broaches the topic is branded an anti-Semite engaging in anti-Semitic tropes. Perhaps you know of an unbiased study?

        Trivia question. The very first word out of baby Hophmi’s mouth was “auntie.” Can you guess the second?

      • talknic on September 26, 2016, 1:33 am

        @ Jackdaw September 24, 2016, 1:30 am

        “My criteria is …” … not living under a life time of the brutal occupation that you and your fellowfools4Ziocrime support

        @ Jackdaw September 25, 2016, 12:20 am

        “You don’t have to look to far to find Nazis”

        Indeed. The Palestinians ask for their legal rights. ZioNazis demand what is not rightfully Israeli

        “When is Mondoweiss going to publish an article about all the Jews, religious and otherwise, who live below the poverty line?”

        How about after they’ve been under 70 years of occupation

    • RoHa on September 23, 2016, 10:14 pm

      Fewer kids.

      And if it is true that the Ghawarnah tribe moved into Palestine in the mid 1880s, then they have at least as much right to live there as the Jewish migrants who moved in later.

      (I would suggest more right, since they integrated with the local Palestinians and, it seems, had part of the territory named after them.

      If the maps showing their name pre-date the 1880s, then either they were there before the 1880s, or the changed their names to match the territory. Anyone got dates for the maps?)

      • Jackdaw on September 25, 2016, 12:16 am

        No one’s denying them a right to be there.

        The clan’s name comes from the area where they’d been living, ‘the Ghor’, which means a depression or valley. This non-Bedouin clan came from the Dead Sea region.

    • italian ex-pat on September 24, 2016, 3:01 pm


      So it’s just the Palestinians having too many children? Last I looked, the illegal Orthodox settlers seem to be just as prolific. And while the Palestinians’ reason may be to not be well informed about the modern ways of birth control, you can bet the American-transplanted settlers are. They CHOOSE to have 10 or more kids per family in an attempt to match the Arab birthrate – in fact, I believe their main purpose in moving to Israel is demographic ( aka facts on the ground).

    • Talkback on September 25, 2016, 3:40 am

      Jackdaw: “Since half of the town’s residents are children, the good people of Jisr al Zirkah might have been able to raise their standard of living by having less children.”

      Or the Jewish Apartheid Junta could distribute its budget equally amongst Jews and Nonjews. But then it wouldn’t be a “Jewish democracy”, right?

      Jackdaw: “Oh. BTW Skylar, the Ghawarnah tribe, like many Palestinians emigrated from Egypt during the mid 1800’s. Didn’t you know that?”

      The only relevant question is, how many people legally immigrated and not against the will of the citizens of the mandated State of Palestine. Less then half of all Jews in 1948 were legal citizens in Palestine. Didn’t you know that?

  2. a blah chick on September 24, 2016, 10:24 am

    “How gross I am? Gross enough to have had two kids and shown some restraint afterwards” –

    Yeah, Mr. Scrooge, let ’em take advantage of all those prisons and workhouses too!

  3. gamal on September 24, 2016, 8:53 pm


    green grows the lily right among the bushes

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