On Tuesday I travelled to Barta’a, a town which straddles the Green Line, which separates The West Bank from Israel. I was with a friend who has his dentist there, and all was very peaceful.
Yet the very next day the television pictures were of events in the neighbouring town of Umm el Fahm, another large Arab town, where extremists Jews had been given permission to march, waving Israeli flags. Confrontation was inevitable, and indeed it ended up in mayhem, with tear gas, secret police and arrests. The pictures were broadcast around the world, and Israel’s name is tarnished once more.
To me it is sad, especially as a lot of my Jewish friends were aghast at such a provocative march being allowed to take place. Only a week ago there was also some trouble in Safed, one of the four Holy Cities for the Jews and which stands in the hills to the north of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The rabbi there had urged people not to rent out rooms to Arab students studying at the local College and to shun those who did. This led to a confrontation between extremist students on both sides of the ethnic divide.
In both cases, it seems that the extremists throughout Israel, who are very much in the minority, are gaining more and more power and are creating situations of tension. Once again it saddens me, as so many people in both communities want to live side by side in peace.