Jewish and Arab Neighbors Hold Hands for Peace

14 January 2009 By New Israel Fund

Last Saturday 300 Jews and Arabs from the Wadi Ara region of Israel demonstrated against the harming of innocent civilians in Gaza and the surrounding Israeli region. The rally was organized by NIF grantee Awareness for You, which runs empowerment courses for Arab women in the village of Kfar Kara.

"I only expected about 90 people to attend the rally," explained Amna Ka'anana, "so I was surprised when we had 300 people all dressed in white and holding olive branches, about half and half Jews and Arabs. Many of the drivers who passed by, both Jews and Arabs, called out their support."

In addition to being a forum to voice concern over the conflict in Gaza, the rally was also an opportunity for the Jews and Arabs of Wadi Ara to come together. Among the many banners, one carried by an Arab read "Neighbors call for peace," while another carried by a Jew said "Jews and Arabs hand in hand."

 Amna Ka'anana (left) hosts Jewish neighbors in her home in Kfar Kara.

Ka'anana said: "We sent a message of peace and coexistence to all of Wadi Ara, to all of Israel and to the entire world."

Ka'anana, who is an Orthodox Muslim, received NIF's London-Yaari Scholarship in 2007 for her work in women's empowerment. Last year she received the Knesset Speaker's Prize for Quality of Life.

When the fighting erupted in Gaza last month, she feared that the tensions could spill over into violent conflicts between Jews and Arabs in Wadi Ara. She invited several dozen Jewish and Arab activists to her home to discuss the situation, and they hit upon the idea of the Shabbat rally.

"I have always wanted to initiate social activities that bring Jews and Arabs together," explained Ka'anana, "so that we can understand one another's culture. Now the war has taken matters in a different direction. At the end of last week's rally many people started crying and that started me crying."

The rally ended with Jewish and Muslim prayers. Awareness for You plans similar peaceful rallies, with increased expected turnout, every Shabbat while the fighting continues.