Once again the Middle East has exploded, yet, on Saturday some 400 Jews and Arab citizens of Israel gathered in the Arab city of Tira for a rally organized by Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom, in collaboration with other peace organizations and the City of Tira, to promote Arab-Jewish partnership. The motto of the day was that “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”; making a stand against the escalating violence of the past few weeks by “saying no to racism, yes to peaceful equal existence, and yes to a shared destiny”. Only last week the police told Jewish Israelis not to visit Tira’s famous Saturday market. This Saturday, just down the road from that market, a representative from Kfar Saba City Council (a neighboring Jewish community), a representative from Tira City Council and others were addressing a mixed Arab-Jewish crowd about their shared future.
The idea of the rally grew out of a strategy meeting held for human rights, and peace organizations and left wing movements at Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom last Sunday. Representatives from Peace Now, Hadash, Meretz, Rabbis for Human Rights, Psychoactive, FoeMe, Allmep and others all took part, both in Sunday’s meeting and in the rally itself. WASNS general manager Eyas Shbeta, who grew up in Tira, and Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, Director of the School for Peace, worked together with all these representatives, and contacts in Tira, to make this rally possible.
Speakers at the rally included village members Dr. Nava Sonnenschien and Dr. Maram Masarwi, as well as Knesset Members Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Muhammed Barcha (Hadas), and Dov Hanin (Hadas). As reported in Maariv Daily Newspaper, and Ynet News Service, MK Zandberg spoke of the escalation of violence and racism on the streets in the past few weeks and how “most of us want to live together”; MK Barcha drew attention to the role of the occupation in perpetuating violence and the need to end it as “occupation is a tragedy for Israelis and for Palestinians”; and MK Hanin spoke of the cycle of violence that has been occurring for years and that it was “time to find another way, not madness and hatred, but of peace and justice for both sides.”
The conviction of all those gathered to work together was clear. This rally is the beginning and marks the first of many collaborative actions, between Jews and Arabs, and across organizations, that Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam will continue to take part in organizing.
A letter from Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom Municipal Manager Eyas Shbeta:
Video clip from the rally (15 min. Hebrew)
Thanks to Nadeen Nashef and Dafna Karta Schwartz for the photos.