Some Sit in 'Peace Sukkah,' Others Discuss Anger

A happy group of kids left the Arab school at the entrance to Acre's Old City yesterday: The Acre municipality had just finished cutting date palm branches for sukkah roofing. They had also harvested the fruit, which lay in a big pile on the road, and the students cheerfully helped themselves. In the square opposite the school, the members of the Acre Hashomer Hatzair youth movement were building a peace sukkah. "It looks like coexistence in Acre is a lie, but it's important to us to show that there's an alternative to hatred," said Amar Uri, one of the builders.

These young idealists and the schoolchildren seemed to be the only optimistic people in Acre yesterday. Sadness, anger and confusion have reigned since Yom Kippur.

S., 60, born and bred in Acre, watched police check cars at a roadblock at the entrance to the Old City, by the promenade near her home.

Her Arab neighbors, S. says, are like family to her. "I'd give my soul for my neighbor," she says, recalling how her son came from Tel Aviv during the Second Lebanon War and took the neighbors' young son to stay with her family in the center of the country.

However, she also says that what happened on Yom Kippur did not surprise her. "Under the surface things have been boiling for a long time. When I leave the house, kids from the Arab school say insulting things. When I mention to the young men that they're blocking my parking space they say, 'Yallah, shut up, you're temporary here.' Now, after 60 years, I'm not sure I'm going to keep living in Acre."

Another Acre resident, Silvi Vaknin, 38, says she will never forget this Yom Kippur. "There was a group of hundreds outside, mostly masked, from young men to older women," she recalls. "The crowd came up to the house, a number of young men climbed on my husband's car and destroyed it. A hail of stones was thrown at the yard. We turned out the light and went into the reinforced room. Eight of us, my family and our guests, in that room all night. We kept calling the police and no one came. When we went out at dawn I was in shock at the devastation. I felt so insulted. They hurt me and my home on the Jewish people's holiest day."

But unlike S., Vaknin is not considering leaving.

Nati Krakover, the CEO of the Palm Beach Hotel at the town's southern entrance, was worried yesterday. Since the morning he had had 200 overnights canceled for the coming week. Half canceled after the Acre Festival was canceled, the other half decided to go somewhere else in the Galilee.

"What can I tell people from Tel Aviv who cancel their vacation with us? For them, we're a war zone," Krakover says.

"The whole city will suffer economically, but that's secondary," Krakover says. "Day-to-day life is in danger, I am afraid of the extremists who will take over the city, and it will spread to other cities. I look at tomorrow and ask myself how people will control themselves and move on after hurting each other."