Neighbours — but not friends
CRIES OF HEBREW and Arabic resound throughout the lanes of Akko’s market, where Arab men and Jewish women haggle over the price of meat. Said’s renowned hummus bar brims with Israelis of all kinds, jostling for space at the table as they wolf down pickles and hot pitta. Arab and Jewish fishermen trawl their fresh catch from the sea, dumping it onto market stalls, where it sits flapping, waiting to be spiced for Shabbat dinner.
But the apparent harmony that charms visitors to this town belies the fact that relations between Jews and Arabs are steadily deteriorating in this ancient port town, known in English as Acre.
Marie, a Moroccan Jewish resident of Akko’s suburbs for 48 years, describes how the dynamics are changing: “When I arrived, this was a Jewish area, but it’s amazing how many Arabs have moved in over the past few years. There are now four families in my block alone.”
Her granddaughter, Mor, chips in: “The place is full of Arabs now. It never used to be like this — Arab music everywhere, Arab shops. It’s a different city.”
But Marie chastises her granddaughter. “What do you want to do? Kill them? We are neighbours.”
Marie describes how when she returns home with shopping, “my Arab neighbour runs to help me. I like to think we are friends. But there’s little trust between the two groups.”
Marie’s accent betrays her Arabic roots. She and her friends chat in Moroccan; she listens to Arabian-Jewish music and speaks warmly of Arabic culture.
Akko’s younger generation, however, though largely of North African origin, has little in common with its Arab neighbours. They go to separate schools; few study Arabic, which Mor describes as a “disgusting language”, and as they get older many Jews leave Akko for more homogenous neighbourhoods.
Guy, 23, expresses distrust of the Arabs around him: “I don’t like them. During the  war they arrested 17 Arabs in the old town, spying for Lebanon. The Jews used to run the old city, and the Arabs were quiet, but now the Jews have left. They’ve gone to Nahariya, to get away from the Arabs.”
The younger Arabs, too, are losing touch with their Jewish counterparts. Marie’s neighbours’ children do not speak Hebrew and whilst the older residents interact, contact amongst the youth is so minimal that when the rockets fell on the north in 2006, young Arabs were filmed cheering for Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
It seems likely that the longer Akko’s two communities live together, the further they will grow apart.