The Jerusalem Post
Some insights on our times
I might be wrong, but if my memory serves me, there were discussions taking place between the 180 residents of Khan al-Ahmar from the Jahalin Bedouin tribe and Israeli authorities to find a suitable location for them to move and the allocation of budget for the move. Initially the government wanted to force these Bedouin residents to move to Abu Dis, next to a garbage dump. I visited that spot and I can testify that it is unfit for human residence. But I was told by some of the Khan al-Ahmar residents and some of their Jewish friends that there were alternative plans being discussed with them as well. Those plans got trashed when on one side rightwing Israelis demanded that the small “village” be demolished and on the other side when the
Palestinian Authority took over the struggle and turned it into a national case against the continued nakba of the Palestinian people. Before Israel’s establishment, the Jahalin tribe lived in the area of Tel Arad in the Negev, located in present-day Israel. Following the 1948 war, the Israeli military forced them out of their villages and into the West Bank; they settled in the area of the Israeli settlement Mishor Adumim in the early 1970s. Most of the villagers live in makeshift tin shacks or tents, and make their living off grazing. This is a very poor community and surely their lives could be significantly improved with not too much money and some good will. The ruling of the High Court, opposed to what most Israelis believe, was not that the government must demolish the village. The court ruled that the government could demolish the village. There is a difference. I would suggest that this is the time for quiet diplomacy between the Israeli government and the residents of Khan al-Ahmar. For one, the PA is in a deep state of paralysis and dysfunction, and we have a new Israeli government that could actually try something new. Perhaps a decent area could be found for them to resettle, the government could prepare suitable infrastructure and allocate land and even provide loan guarantees or some money for them to start a new life with a much higher standard of living. The school that was built in Khan al-Ahmar by the residents and volunteers with international assistance could be replaced by a modern well-equipped building provided by Israel and the international community. Wouldn’t that be a much better end to this story which has been going on for about 10 years?
On Tuesday, the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, the city of Lod sponsored a conference for real estate developers to learn about the plans for Lod 2040 – a plan for the future of Lod. The conference was held outdoors under a large tent constructed in one of the new development areas. This was a well-planned event, advertised in the financial newspapers and heavily budgeted. The selection of the date for the conference on the first day of Eid al-Adha was no mistake or oversight. Present were all of the Jewish members of Lod’s city council, including the mayor, representatives of the relevant government ministries and lots of real estate developers. The catering was very fancy and we were all given a helicopter ride above the city to see the development areas from the sky. Who was not there? Arabs. Not one of the Arab members of the city council was there. No Arab representatives from the government ministries and of course no Arab real estate developers. Thirty percent of Lod is Arab – Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel. In the coming years, billions of shekels will be spent in Lod building thousands of new housing units and public buildings, schools, commercial centers and parks. The newest neighborhood in Lod is already a “no Arab zone” built for the National-Religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) populations only. What I heard in Lod at this conference was a detailed plan for significantly increasing the percentage of Jews in Lod and reducing the percentage of Arabs there. I asked a representative of the Housing Ministry if it is alright in his eyes to hold a conference like this in Lod on the first day of Eid al-Adha. He looked at me almost in bewilderment, shrugged his shoulders and said “maybe”.
THE TEMPLE MOUNT – AL-AQSA
This is the raw nerve of the
Israeli Palestinian conflict. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett erred when he mistakenly said that the status quo of religious rituals (prayer) for Jews and Muslims would be protected on the mount. He repaired the damage by issuing a correction – Jews may visit on the Mount, but they cannot pray there. Muslims pray on the Mount – al-Aqsa – Jews do not. This is an unfortunate reality because Jews and Muslims claim that they pray to the same God. There should be freedom of prayer everywhere, including within holy spaces. But religion in Israel and Palestine is not only about God. It is mainly about control, politics, identity and blood. There is no religious prohibition in Islam to Jews or others praying at al-Aqsa. The prohibition is about politics, control and claimed ownership and when every grain of sand and every stone is contested between Israelis and Palestinians, it makes sense to treat the most radioactive stones with great care. Too much tampering with this sensitive ground has the potential to set off an earthquake that will destroy and kill way too many people. It has already happened too many times. Now is the time to keep the provocateurs away and time to increase the behind the scenes communication and cooperation between the Israeli police and the Muslim Wakf. The renewed ties between Israel and Jordan can be helpful in reducing tensions. Holidays are times of tension in Jerusalem. They should be times of celebration and joy. Let’s hope that this Eid al-Adha and the coming Jewish holiday will be calm and pray that one day we will be able to celebrate each other’s holidays in Jerusalem.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Investment Bond.