‘Coexistence’ in one of Israel’s major mixed cities means Palestinian citizens must forget who they are, where they were born, and whom they were born to.
By Zohar Elmakias
Two eighth grade girls from Ramle’s Juwarish neighborhood stabbed a security guard at the central bus station last Thursday. Following the incident, I thought a lot of about Ramle. I was born and raised there, and many of my family members still live in the city. Ramle is, for better or for worse, the landscape of my childhood, the place I always go back to. As a child, I participated in various “coexistence” activities with local Arab children. We met at the pool, at summer camp, at school. But I did not live in a “mixed city” — I lived in a segregated city: I did not know their language, and it took me time to understand why our neighbors put up a Christmas tree in their living room, or why fireworks lit up the sky on Christmas Eve.
And though I lived in a segregated city, Haaretz recently published a list of education experts and local leaders who praised the city for its coexistence, among them was Mayor Yoel Lavi, who said: “Ramle is a multicultural city where Jews coexist alongside Arabs as neighbors. We will continue to be good neighbors with no difference between sectors.”
In an interview in 2005, Lavi said: “There are homes in Juwarish that are nicer than those in Kfar Shmaryahu. How can people call it a refugee camp? There is an excellent school there…and houses that are reminiscent of the Loire Valley.” In that same interview, Lavi talked about the local elections and his relations with the Arab population of the city:
In those same years, Lavi refused to give Arab names to the streets in Ramle, saying that those who don’t like the decision can either move to Arab towns or “change their Allah.” He later apologized, although two years later Israel’s attorney general decided not to appoint him to head the Israel Land Administration (ILA). Even the chairman of the ILA, one of the most discriminatory and problematic bodies in Israel, cannot stand Lavi’s remarks and policies.
Lavi’s remarks show exactly what kind of “coexistence” is acceptable to him: the kind in which people are made to forget who they are, where they were born, and whom they were born to....Read More