Social and Economic Justice

A Human Chain for a Good Neighborhood

15 July 2014 By New Israel Fund

The brutal murders of the three kidnapped Israelis and the Palestinian teenager have led to an especially charged atmosphere between Jewish and Arab Israelis. NIF is investing in efforts to overcome the incitement, racism, and violence.

Even in these difficult times, there are points of light in the darkness.

Amna Knaan, a resident of the Israeli-Arab town Kfar Kara and chair of NIF grantee Awareness for You, organized an event focusing on Jewish-Arab partnership. During last Friday's event, a human chain of Jews and Arabs silently demonstrated for good neighborliness and shared society.

Knaan told us how she came up with the idea: "The situation in Wadi Ara hasn't been easy recently. After the kidnappings, the incitement increased, and Price Tag [gangs] entered villages and caused trouble in Wadi Ara, Umm el-Fahm, and Arara. I thought about what I could do for good neighborliness. Many [Jewish] friends told me that they wanted to come to the village but couldn't [because they were afraid]. So I spoke to my Arab and Jewish friends and got them together to speak."

Why you? "I've worked for a long time for Awareness for You, and I know how hard it is to preserve the delicate fabric of life here. But I've been trying for years. It's hard for me to see what's been happening recently, so I opened my heart and invited my friends and we began to talk. I said that it's OK to let the anger out, but we can't damage property and intimidate people. This led me to think about the human chain idea. I invited other organizations and people from Kfar Kara – people who care about the special fabric of life here and want to preserve it."

Was it complicated to organize the event? "It was difficult to get a permit from the police, but our Jewish friends helped get us a permit, despite all the problems that were going on. I was also afraid about what the people from the village would say, but when they saw the event on Facebook they told me "Well done – we're with you" – then I understood that it would actually happen."

And how did it go? "We met on Friday, everyone dressed in white and formed a human chain with one banner: "Peaceful Neighbors." We stood by the junction, without words. I was almost in tears. I invited the participants to my home to sum up the day – it was very special. Then we heard about the start of hostilities in Gaza. I said that we have to do it again, and it looks like that will happen too – hopefully this coming Friday. At times of war, I think it's important to organize events like this.

Was there media coverage of the event? "The [Jewish] Israeli media was absent, but the Arab media did turn up."

[Another NIF-supported organization is currently running a grassroots effort to encourage the media to report on the great number of activities taking place right now to help heal the divide between Jewish and Arab Israelis.]

Do you have a message for Israelis who are reading this? "We are not responsible for politics, but let's do our best to preserve the special fabric of life here. Us Arabs are between the hammer and the anvil. I live here as an Arab and I belong to the State of Israel, but my people are being killed in Gaza. It's difficult for me, and I want to tell every politician to return to negotiations. All the residents here are in favor of peace. War won't bring peace."