Bedouin join Jewish neighbors to protest violence by Tuba-Zangaria youths
The violence coming out of the Bedouin village, described by a former mayor as "one large arms cache," can no longer be ignored.
A sign on Route 90, a few kilometers north of the Sea of Galilee, points out a road that leads to the small Anglo-Saxon community of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi, but ignores the neighboring village of Tuba-Zangaria. But the violence coming out of the Bedouin village, described by a former mayor as "one large arms cache," can no longer be ignored.
Recently, Shani Shuval was about to open the kibbutz pub, when he noticed two strangers lurking in the shadows. In response to his query about what they were doing there, he was hit on the head with a baseball bat and stabbed several times. Fortunately Shuval managed to overcome the shock and punch one of the masked youngsters, who then disappeared back into the darkness. A few days later police informed the kibbutz that it arrested two teenagers from Tuba-Zangaria who are suspected of the assault, as well as of robbing the gas station leading to their village two days later.
Still, the damage was already done. The kibbutz instructed its members not to venture out alone after dark, and more than a hundred members expressed their panic and fear at a demonstration last Friday, held in front of the Rosh Pina police station. The demonstrators, who accused the police of helplessness, were joined by several residents of Tuba-Zangaria, which has a population of 6,000. They came to show solidarity with their neighbors, and to say that the violent youths are a small minority that spread fear throughout the village as well. Police say that in the last year they have arrested dozens of people suspected of violence and confiscated huge amounts of weapons.
Kfar Hanassi members say they can no longer recall the number of thefts and burglaries their community has endured in recent years. The sight of masked youths vandalizing kibbutz property has become all too common. Members reminisce about the kibbutz's flock of sheep; it was once famous throughout Israel for its impressive size, but repeated thefts of sheep took care of that.
One of the demonstrators was Avi Rozenkrantz, whose gun was stolen after he was attacked with an ax seven years ago, while guarding the kibbutz entrance. He does not blame all the residents of Tuba-Zangaria, despite the constant physical reminders of the attack: a scar on his head and a disabled palm. "There's a violent group that has taken over the village and causes all the other residents to lock their doors at six in the evening, and not to allow their children out," Rozenkrantz said. "The atmosphere of fear and violence is expressed through dangerous driving and incessant shootings. After nightfall the whole area becomes like a firing range." Still, Rozenkrantz's son is the sole Jewish member of a soccer team composed of Tuba-Zangaria players. "The entire team is made up of El-Haib boys, plus one Rozenkrantz," he says.
Ali El-Haib, a Tuba-Zangaria resident who was at the demonstration says his entire village should have been there. "We're talking about a bunch of cruel people who are damaging our village's honor. Violence is on the rise. The village was neglected over the years, and all our problems were ignored, but it is now time for us to work together, against the violence."
Abdallah El-Haib, head of the education department on Tuba-Zangaria's local council, was at the demonstration to express solidarity with his neighbors. "We all suffer from the violence, which has been ignored for years. The rate of unemployment is very high, and our youths have been neglected. Only recently we have begun to try tackling the problems. Many young people are frustrated, angry and feel discriminated against. Still, that's no excuse for violence."
When nearby Hatzor Haglilit received special tax benefits, Tuba-Zangaria was again overlooked. "It's very convenient to ignore us," says Abdallah El-Haib. "Maybe when the violence was restricted to the village limits, nobody cared, but violence is an infection that spreads and hurts everyone."
Endless cases of violence in the village, including five murders in recent years, have failed to alarm the authorities, even when a high school student was murdered by another student, or when shots were fired at the mayor. "We can't go on like this," says Yichye El-Haib, who also attended the demonstration, though he acknowledges that other village residents might not support his attendance. "The Arab Spring teaches us that we must not remain silent. We can't live with such a level of violence. In Tunisia, the street vendor set himself on fire. Today, here, I cry out loud, but I have no fear."