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Issues of the Day Cemetery Desecration and Other Racist Attacks Fraying Israel's Social Fabric

On October 9, 2011 my cinematographer and I were slated to visit Jaffa to shoot a scene from the trailer to Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel. The book deals with extremism in Israeli society.

Just before leaving, I saw the morning headlines: anti-Arab graffiti had appeared on graves in Jaffa's Arab cemeteries, and a firebomb, apparently in retaliation, had been thrown at a neighborhood synagogue.


These attacks followed the burning of a mosque in the Galilee the week before, and the scrawling of anti-Arab graffiti in Bat Yam. On the Saturday night, at the end of Yom Kippur, after the Jaffa vandalism had been discovered, citizens of Jaffa, Arabs and Jews, came together at a rally to denounce the extremists.


We went to the cemetery and witnessed the desecration. While there,  a group of Arab students from the local high school walked dazed through the cemetery in the company of their teachers and principal. I spoke to the principal as a fellow teacher, a fellow citizen, and as a Jew and condemned the assault as the act of people whose racist thuggery does not represent the values of the majority.


A film crew from Mabat, Channel One television news was also on site and when told that I had written a book about coexistence, they asked if I would comment on the incident. I am seen here in the news clip (in tee-shirt and black cap) speaking in Hebrew on the need for Arabs and Jews to reach out to each other's communities and strive for coexistence.


The gentleman in the red shirt is a councilor representing Arab Jaffa on the Tel Aviv municipal council. He along with the school principal and other local Arab residents cited the ongoing attempt by religious Jewish settlers to establish a community in the heart of an Arab neighborhood as an ongoing source of friction.  


Several weeks later, on the night between Oct. 30-31, an Arab restaurant on Jaffa's Yefet Street was torched by vandals who scrawled "price tag" and "Kahane was right" on the exterior wall of the eatery.


"Price tag" is the name given by West Bank settlers to their retaliatory attacks on Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and progressive Israelis Jews. Meir Kahane was the founder of the radical right, Kach Movement. Though Kach was outlawed years ago, one of Kahane's protégés is today a Knesset member. Many radical activists invoke his name in executing their activities.  

The increase in extremism, whatever the source, is an affront to all Israelis. At a time when the society is teeming with activity on behalf of social justice, working for equal rights and solidarity between all sectors is no less imperative. Provocations on all sides must be stopped and combating racism and intolerance must be the concern of all who care about Israel.  

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved