Thousands of school children, teachers and parents circled the Beduin city of Rahat hand-in-hand on Sunday morning, to protest the wave of violence that has shaken it over the past year.
Organizers said that around 21,000 school children from Rahat and surrounding villages took part in the human chain, with many holding signs saying “no to violence, yes to tolerance.”
The rally was the initiative of Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Seheban, who said violence is wreaking a terrible toll on the city, and that through education, he and other local leaders hoped to find peace for residents.
“We are using advocacy to bring all the different leaders in the city together to talk about what we can do against the violence. More than anything else though, we are working in schools, because we realize that to stop violence, it all begins in the schools,” he said.
Rahat is an incorporated Beduin city of around 40,000 in the Negev.
It has long suffered from crippling poverty and one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. Over the past year, the city has made the headlines on a regular basis for murders, many of which were the result of feuds between local clans.
A common ingredient in the murders in Rahat, and elsewhere in the Arab
sector, is the use of illegal firearms, many of them stolen from the IDF
or the Israel Police.
Abu-Seheban said that in addition to education in the schools and
protests, he has called on police to step up their efforts to rid Rahat
of the illegal firearms that all too often take the lives of local
“We want police to fight the use and possession of illegal and legal
weapons in Rahat. We want them to fight the phenomenon of shooting [in
the air] at weddings, which they have done, but not enough. Police need
to put all the resources they can into fighting illegal weapons.”