Jews and Arabs March Together in NIF-Backed ‘We Stand Together’ Rally
“I do not forgive my father’s murderers,” said Meital Ofer of Palestinian-Israel Bereaved Families for Peace, whose father Colonel (res) Seraiah Ofer was hacked to death by two Palestinians two years ago. “Murder is murder. But I have no desire for revenge and seeing other innocent people suffer. The government must lower the flames of incitement and move us forward in hope to see each other as people that must share this land.”
Ofer was addressing nearly 2,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs who marched through downtown Jerusalem on Saturday night to protest the wave of violence that is sweeping through the country. With funding and support from the New Israel Fund and Shatil, the rally was organized through the social media by “We Will Stand Together,” a new coalition of grass roots groups fed up with the incitement fueled by both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
Marching down Hillel Street was former NIF President Naomi Chazan. She said, “Everybody has come here tonight to simply say that they want an alternative to despair and violence. They want hope and different policies.”
Adam came from Haifa and Hadil from the Galilee to join hands under the banner, “We will not surrender to despair.”
Rawnak Natour, Co-Executive Director of NIF grantee Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, told the rally. “We must take our hats off to the Jewish man who was stabbed last week in Kiryat Ata by another Jewish man who thought he was an Arab. When asked how it felt to be stabbed by mistake, he asked, ‘if I really was an Arab, that would not have been a mistake as well?’ It is a mistake to stab people. It is a mistake to incite. It is a mistake to discriminate against the 20% Arab minority in Israel and the occupation is the mother of all mistakes. Together we must stand and together we will win so that there is hope for future generations of Jews and Arabs.”
Dr. Meir Buzaglo, head of the Tikun Movement (NIF grantee), said, “I am a Jew whose mother tongue is Arabic. Israelis and Palestinians have so much in common culturally and we must reconnect with this. There is another way forward, not through murder, but by stressing what we have in common. Only a living person can sanctify God and we must share life as the highest value.”
Morad Munir, a teacher at the Hand In Hand Center for Jewish Arab Education in Israel, Jerusalem’s Jewish-Arab school, said, “I say to the Jerusalem Municipality — instead of building us roadblocks , build community centers and sports fields. We ask the Israeli government to put out the flames of incitement, and give us a diplomatic horizon with hope that could lead to peace. We cannot let despair defeat us.”
Gili Rei, co-chair of the PTA at the school and co-chair of Sikkuy’s Education for Shared Society Project said, “We cannot allow fear to dominate us. We must build a better future, stone by stone, and feeling by feeling. We must dream and hope about building a place, not where fear and frustration rule, but where there is room for all of us.”
The “We Stand Together” coalition has promised that this is the first rally of many throughout Israel, which will be staged in the coming few weeks. The Jerusalem rally was extensively covered by the Israeli and international media.
Shatil was involved in the planning of the rally, the PA department assisted them in marketing, media and documentation (photos and video), and NIF provided a $5,000 grant.