‘Helping a shared society cope with crisis’

‘Helping a shared society cope with crisis’

A new PPI board member, Phyllis Bernstein, co-chairs the Israeli Arab Educational Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. She has published this in NJ Jewish News, an illuminating and hopeful op-ed on Jewish-Arab relations within Israel. Here’s an abridged version:

. . .  In the current and understandably heated climate, many Arab citizens are now fearful of speaking in Arabic on public transportation and refrain from walking on city streets in Jewish neighborhoods. Some are afraid to show up at work. Their fears have been stoked by social media rumors of attempted kidnappings of Arab children by Jewish settlers. 

. . .  Fortunately, there are many efforts to improve relations between Israel’s Arabs and Jews.

When a modest monument created by local residents in memory of Khdeir [the recently murdered East Jerusalem teenager] was dismantled, members of the Dror Israel youth movement replaced the monument and held a ceremony at the site. They have also been working to strengthen connections between Jewish and Arab members of the HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed youth movement.

The Israel Trauma Coalition is helping Bedouins, who typically do not comply with safety directives issued by Home Front Command. ITC hosted a gathering of 27 Bedouin imams and trained 25 Bedouin social workers in Rahat over nine months to deal with trauma. The Bedouin community now has tools so kids can deal with their fears from the start.

The Givat Haviva organization connected Jewish and Arab mayors with the aim of reducing tensions and preventing further clashes among residents affected by demonstrations and racist incidents. A joint public statement issued by Jewish and Arab mayors of the Wadi Ara region called for peace, calm, and cooperation. Jewish-Arab civil society organizations formed a human chain of 400 Jews and Arabs along the main highway in Wadi Ara.

The Tag Meir (“Spreading the Light”) coalition organized a visit for 350 Jewish Israelis to East Jerusalem to pay respects to Khdeir’s family last week. They were hoping the gesture would open a door to peace and understanding between two divided communities. The visit showcased shared humanity, but also the difficulties of reconciliation in the current environment.

. . .  The current crisis has also revealed gaps in emergency preparedness. Be’eri-Sulitzeanu reports that an Abraham Fund survey of Arab communities in Israel found that “86 percent of all Arab localities are virtually unprepared for an emergency.” Working with Israel police, Arab and Jewish mayors, government ministries, civil society leaders, and Hebrew and Arabic media, The Abraham Fund Initiatives is trying to limit damage to Jewish-Arab relations and is pushing for upgraded emergency preparedness for Arab towns and villages, especially in the Bedouin communities of the Negev.

Ever-deepening social divides and increased hostility threaten Israel’s democratic fabric. With 1,200,000 Arab citizens, including 220,000 Negev Bedouins, Israel must build a shared society characterized by mutual responsibility, full participation, and equal opportunity. 

Again, the full version can be read online by clicking here.  

By | 2014-07-22T08:24:00-04:00 July 22nd, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

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