Fragile Coexistence in Northern Israel Disturbed by anti-Arab Vandals

'They want to spoil relations between us. It won’t happen,' vows one resident of Manshiya Zabda, the latest target amid spate of racist attacks

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Jewish residents of area near Manshiya Zabda demonstrate support for village.
Jewish residents of area near Manshiya Zabda demonstrate support following anti-Arab vandalism there, Dec. 12, 2019. Sign reads: 'We've come to strengthen and hug.' Ma'alot Tivon Reform CongregationCredit: Gil Eliahu
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

“It’s not the financial damage. It’s the emotional harm. Everything else can be repaired,” said Karim Sa’ida, a resident of the Jezreel Valley Arab village of Manshiya Zabda in Israel’s north, which was targeted overnight on Wednesday by a wave of vandalism, which included anti-Arab graffiti. News of the incident prompted an outpouring of support from residents of nearby Jewish communities.

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About 100 vehicles in the village of several hundred residents were damaged, in addition to the graffiti spray-painted on walls. The repair bill on Sa’ida’s three trucks is 26,676 shekels (about $7,700), he said. Each of the trucks has six tires.

Sa’ida sells and rents event equipment for a living. His Jewish customers have been calling to console him. His phone hadn’t stopped ringing all morning, he said.

“The entire country wants to be in this valley,” he declared. “It’s the prettiest place in the country. We have never felt a difference between Arabs and Jews or between Christians and Moslems here. We always hear about such things elsewhere, and now, all of a sudden, it’s happening in our beautiful place.”

The police first reported that 20 vehicles had been damaged, but as time passed, it became clear that the true figure was around 100.

Perpetrators caught on camera slashing tires in Manshiya Zabda.

Village residents, who had never encountered such a hate crime in Manshiya Zabda, were even more shocked when they discovered the graffiti, which included slogans such as “expel or kill.”

By the afternoon Thursday, people from nearby Jewish communities, including Kfar Hahoresh, Nahalal and Kiryat Tivon, were streaming into the village to express their solidarity. Earlier in the day, members of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, whose jurisdiction includes the village, were there in support.

Residents of the area no longer use terms such as coexistence because a shared communal life among Jews and Arabs has been entrenched in the area for many years and is considered an accepted fact.

“It’s not a question of coexistence. We live together here and that’s that,” said Rachel Schwartzman of Timrat, who used to be the doctor in Manshiya Zabda and came to express her support.

“It’s shameful. They want to spoil relations between us,” said Jihad Abu Ras Abdel-Halim, the owner of a shoe store in the village. “It won’t happen,” he vowed.

One of the vehicles vandalized overnight in the Galilee Arab village of Manshiya Zabda, Dec. 12, 2019.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Abdel-Halim’s daughter is taking horseback riding lessons in the nearby Jewish community of Beit She’arim and his son practices soccer at Nahalal in the valley.

“We’ve been here since before the state was established, since 1943,” Abdel-Halim said. “It’s painful but it won’t lead to conflict. It will only strengthen us and bring us closer together. This valley is a symbol of coexistence.”

Among the visitors to the village following the incident were the co-directors of the Abraham Initiatives, Thabet Abu Rass and Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, whose organization works to foster ties between Jews and Arabs. They blamed the hate crime on what they described as “increased incitement against Arabs, which has become fashionable among wide sections of the political system.”

Mustafa Sa’ida, another village resident, discovered at 5:30 A.M., as he was about to leave for work, that his tires had been slashed. He saw other residents checking for damage to their property.

“The most disconcerting thing was to see the adults who, instead of going to morning prayer, had to deal with this nonsense,” he said. “I’m telling the police, this is also terrorism. It’s criminal when people come to your house and destroy it.”

But he added: “This valley is a valley of love. I have been emotional all day, because people haven’t stopped calling. The support of Jews from the area has been moving. And that’s gotten more attention than the incident. It makes you happy.”