Both Arabs and Jews in the north of Israel have rallied in suppport of coexistence over the past week, against the background of terror attacks in Jerusalem and many other parts of the country.
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“This demonstration is 15 years late,” said Hanna, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek, who was one of some 300 people, both Jews and Arabs, who formed a human chain along Route 65, in the predominantly Arab Wadi Ara area, on Friday.
“If we had done this in 2000, when they were burning traffic lights here, everything would have looked different,” she said, referring to violent Arab protests in October of that year in which 13 Arab demonstrators were killed.
Idit, another kibbutznik from Mishmar Ha’emek, recalled a past in which Jews could travel anywhere in area and kibbutzim employed Arab villagers. “When exactly did everything shatter around us? I don’t remember, but it’s sad,” she said.
Participants in Friday’s demonstration held signs with slogans such as “Arabs and Jews seek partnership, equality and security” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to forgo a life together.” They waved to passing motorists and many honked back in support.
The demonstration came at the end of a week in which more than 1,000 people visited a dialogue tent established by Yaniv Sagee, executive director of the Givat Haviva Center for Shared Society. Set up at the Megiddo junction, at the northern end of the Wadi Ara road, the tent was intended to provide a place where Jewish and Arab residents interested in coexistence could express themselves, Sagee said.
“In the face of the fear, the hate and the racism, we are presenting hope, faith and joint responsibility,” he stated, adding that the tent will be relocated to Givat Haviva itself, southwest of Wadi Ara.
Kabha Najua, an artist from the Arab town of Barta’a, said that as a woman who wears traditional Muslim dress, she has been afraid to go to the Gan Shmuel shopping center, where a terrorist attack was committed a week ago. That sentiment was seconded by Mufida Abu Bakker from the Arab village of Salem, who said: “I can’t move. I feel like I am a suspect everywhere.” She added that she has also stopped going to Afula, the major Jewish town to the northeast.
In other demonstrations in the north over the past week, some protestors focused on calling for an end to violence and on behalf of coexistence, while others demanded the end of the occupation and changes in government policy.
Some 150 people, both Jews and Arabs, gathered at the Carmiel junction to express what they said was the voice of reason in Israel. Among those attending was Joint Arab List Knesset member Abdullah Abu Maaruf.
Hndreds of Jewish residents of the Jezreel Valley, including local council head Eyal Betzer, attended a colorful event at the Druze Arab village of Zarzir on Wednesday and, further north in Misgav, young Jews and Arabs marched from one community to another decrying violence.
There was also a rally outside the Upper Nazareth city hall organized by Inbal Paran, who spoke of coexistence of Arabs and Jews in the area. “We won’t allow violence and extremists to spoil this,” she said.