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Thoughts about the situation in the country today

Wednesday 23 July 2014, by Eyas Shbeta

The whole world is aware of the cruel war that is taking place in Gaza at this moment. I don’t know if you are also aware of the terrible worsening of relations between Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel itself. The atmosphere in Israel today is extremely grave today and continues to change for the worse. I have lived through many wars and two Intifadas: I am not one who gets scared. Yet for the first time in my life, and my 34 years at Neve Shalom - Wahat al Salam, I feel scared to leave the village.

I wasn’t aware of what was happening to me and found that my schedule had suddenly changed. I wasn’t going to the gym, and I couldn’t make it to the bank to deposit the checks I needed to and I realized that fear has been instilled in all of us and racism is being nurtured in our country.

It all began when the Prime Minister responded to the killing of three Jewish youth by saying, “we (the Jews) sanctify life and they (the Arabs) sanctify death”. This has continued with the Foreign Minister’s yesterday calling to boycott Arab stores which express solidarity with the residents of Gaza.

A few weeks ago hooligans in Jerusalem marched through the streets chanting, “death to the Arabs”, and beat up an Arab worker who was going home. Today an Arab truck driver who stopped at a traffic light was pulled from his vehicle and beaten up. Arabs who work in public places and government offices are afraid to ride on public transportation. Today’s internet news reported that Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer at Bar Illan University called for, “raping the wives of terrorists”. Where and when will the violence end?

When I call my daughters and they are on the bus, they won’t answer the phone because they are afraid to be heard speaking Arabic. One of my daughters was on the train, and I stopped myself from calling her; I was afraid she would answer me in Arabic and what would those around her do or say. Karin, my third daughter is in America counseling a group of Jews and Arabs in the Boston area. I’m happy for all the children of NSWAS who aren’t in the country this summer…

I refuse to continue to live this way. Unfortunately, I don’t see the hope that has always been there. The situation is pushing me to become more extreme and fearful. I find myself defending people I never agreed with; agreeing to things that I would never have agreed with before. Yet I live here, I am part of this place, a citizen of this country. It feels like the lights are being turned off.

I am searching for something positive to say. Last week we organized a solidarity rally of Jews and Arabs in the Arab city of Tira, but today, I lack the words and the hope for living together that this created. I am not optimistic….

There is still an Oasis… and we are still looking for peace. With over 600 dead in Gaza and the war continuing without an end in sight, it is equally frightening that Arab Citizens of Israel do not feel safe on the streets.

Perhaps the country’s leaders would like all Palestinians to leave Israel for the "22 surrounding Arab countries", however I am here, and we will continue to remain here; we have no choice. We will continue - Arabs and Jews - to search for the strength to continue in our mission of living together as equals, sharing responsibility, land and our pain, while our educational institutions, which are needed now more than ever, work to change what is happening around us.

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