(photo credit: )
Although the Druse and Jewish community leaders of the Galilee village of Peki'in had already been reconciled over the weekend following last Tuesday's riots, Druse leaders who had been invited to meet with President Shimon Peres prior to the sulha (reconciliation) felt compelled to honor the invitation.
Druse youth reacted violently on Tuesday to 200 police and border guards entering the village to arrest five young men suspected of vandalizing a cellphone antenna on Jewish property. As a result, over three dozen police and villagers were wounded.
On Sunday evening, the Druse leaders showed up at Beit Hanassi, though the meeting was delayed by nearly half an hour because Peki'in Mayor Muhammad Kheir had been caught in traffic.
The outbreak of violence was a painful experience for the police and for the residents of the village, and caught both in an uneasy situation, said Peres, who declared that one isolated incident, however difficult, should not be allowed to poison the good relations that have existed for years between the Druse, the Jews and people of other faiths.
"Let us hope that this is just a passing cloud," said Peres, adding that the violence must not be allowed to harm the fabric of the relationship. "Peki'in was a symbol of tolerance and mutual respect, and we have to return to that," he said.
Legend has it that the Peki'in synagogue, which dates back to 1873 and is built on an ancient synagogue site from the period of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, contains two stones taken from the walls of the Temple in Jerusalem. An image of the Peki'in synagogue is printed on the back of the NIS 100 bank note, which features former president Yitzhak Ben Zvi on the front.
Peki'in is an historic place not only in the sense of reaching back in time, said Peres, but also because of the positive relations between the different communities of the village. "What happened, happened," he said, "but it can be repaired."
Peres told his guests - who included Sheikh Muafak Tarif, Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee, Druse Yad LeBanim chairman Amal Nasr a-Din and former minister Sallah Tarif - that he had invited them out of a deep regard for the Druse contribution to the state. He knew that the antenna was not the only problem that had sparked the riots, he said, and he was aware of other issues bothering the Druse community.
Tarif responded that the Druse leaders had come to Beit Hanassi because they appreciated the efforts Peres had made over the years to enhance relations between Jews and Druse.
Other members of the delegation expressed their disapproval of the violence, saying Peki'in was not Gaza, nor was it Jenin.