Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2006 13:37:16 EDT
J. Zel LurieCOLUMN FOR APRIL 11, 2006 Jewish Journal
Election Day at the Oasis of Peace
By J. Zel Lurie
Mike Kelly, a free-lance reporter from New Jersey was searching for an
unusual way to cover Israel’s elections on March 28. “Instead of showing
up at staged press conferences at political headquarters,” he wrote in
his blog, “I wanted to find a group of people with a unique view of
Israel’s complicated political landscape.”
He found them in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, which means Oasis of Peace
in Hebrew and Arabic, Fifty Israeli families, 25 Jewish and 25 Arabic,
live side by side. Ballots were cast by 81 percent as against 63 percent
in the rest of the country.
Here is an excerpt from Mike Kelly’s report as published in several New
/*Election Day in this tiny Israeli town midway between Jerusalem and
Tel Aviv was significantly different from what it was in the rest of the
nation. Jews and Arabs voted together.*/
/*Here, Jews and Arab citizens of Israel not only live in the same
town, they are allowed to move in only if they promise to participate in
programs searching for common ground and working out their differences.*/
/*”We tend to go for liberals, even communists,” Rita Boulos, a
Palestinian Christian, said after dropping her ballot into a box in the
town’s community center.*/
/*“We are trying to live together,” she added. “We don’t always succeed.
You don’t have to be in love with everyone here. You just have to
understand and respect them“*/
/*“We are doing something unusual.” said Elan Frish, 58, one of the
town’s orign inal Jewish residents. “We are pioneers. This is a model
for the country. Arabs and Jews can live together.”*/
/*“We choose a different way of life,” Frish’s 23-year-old daughter,
Adi, said. “There is a lot of prejudice in Israel on both sides,”*/
/*Here, Arab and Jewish children not only study in he same classrooms,
they play in the same soccer field and they swim in the same community
/*“Our country is for Jews and Arabs and both peoples have to live
together,” said Ahmed Hijazi, a 39-year-old Muslim. “The diversity
Mike Kelly’s news story, which I have excerpted above, goes on to
discuss dating, community meetings and army service by the Jewish youth.
In his blog, Kelly concludes:
“In my short time here, I have felt the fundamental goodness of people
on both sides. And yet, because of the political lines that have been
drawn, the people seem so far apart…Politics is supposed to be the art
of the possible. As I left Neve Shalom today, I couldn’t help but wonder
why the idealistic politics of this tiny town could not be translated to
this wonderful nation.”
The ballot box was taken away by the election officials that brought it.
The results were announced two days later. The Arab parties, including
the Communists, which garnered some Jewish votes, received 57 percent,
Labor got 23 percent, Meretz, 18 percent and Greens and Pensioners got 2
percent. No one voted for Kadima.
What do the Jewish and Arab residents of the Oasis of Peace have against
Ehud Olmert’s Kadima? He plans to withdraw from some settlements, which
they favor, but without a negotiated agreement, peace will still be far away
More important, Moroccan-born Amir Peretz’s victory over Shimon Peres to
head the Labor Party (Peres then joined Kadima) rejuvenated Labor as
the party of the workingman, the poor and small business owner. No
longer did the Moroccan and other Misrachim have to vote for the right.
A resident of the Oasis of Peace, who holds a PhD from Harvard, voted
for Labor for the first time. She had previously voted for Hadash. which
is the former Communist Party.
She e-mailed me that Amir Peretz will lead on issues of social equity.
Moreover he called on the Arab citizens -- “our Arab brothers” -- to
join the ranks of Labor “as full-fledged partners. . No other Jewish
leader has publicly called on Palestinian citizens of Israel to join
ranks as brothers in the history of Israeli politics,” she observed.
It is likely that the coalition that Olmert will fashion in the coming
weeks together with Peretz will concentrate on social issues. The
promised withdrawal from sections of the West Bank will have to
wait.They will take care of retired persons, 64 percent of whom do not
This will not please Dr. Daniel Pipes, the so-called Mideast expert,
who complained before the election that not a single party was
campaigning on “winning the war against the Palestinian Arabs.”
You win the war, according to Dr. Pipes by using overwhelming force,
killing tens of thousands of Palestinians. reoccupying Gaza and Nablus
and Jenin, killing and disarming 70,000 Palestinian security forces and
private militias, no matter what tfhe cost in Jewish lives,
“Fortunately,” Pipes writes, “at least one Israeli politician advocates
victory over the Palestinians.” He is Uzi Landau who was fourteenth on
the Likud list. Since Likud was reduced from forty seats to twelve,
Landau will not be serving in the Knesset, unless two Likudniks ahead of
him drop out.
Bradley Burston, a former American observes in his blog:
“Dr.Pipes is a new kind of Israel-basher. He is an equal-opportunity
hater of Israelis. None of us is good enough for him (except Uzi
Landau). We can’t seem to win the war for him. I guess he’ll just have
to do it himself.”
Have a good Pesah. My Israeli and American family is gathering in
California for Seder.
401 E. Linton Blvd.
Delray Beach FL 33483
561 278 8139