Abu Ghosh focuses on coexistence, despite attack

‘We’ll never be weak because of slashed tires’; residents of Abu Ghosh come together to show unified front.

vandalized car abu ghosh 370 (photo credit: CARA DORRIS)
vandalized car abu ghosh 370
(photo credit: CARA DORRIS)
When Abu Ghosh kindergarten teacher Safa Utman stepped out of her home on Nataf Street on Tuesday morning, she found that all of her family’s cars’ tires had been slashed, leaving her with no way to get to work.
“We were shocked by the incident. I needed to get to work at the school in Ein Rafa, but wasn’t able to. Thirty- five children waited for me at work today, but I couldn’t come,” she said as she leaned against the deflated tire, clutching her car keys.
Police found a total of 28 cars vandalized vehicles and offensive graffiti yesterday in Abu Ghosh, an Arab village west of Jerusalem renowned for its model of coexistence and amity with nearby Jewish towns. The vandalism is the alleged work of rightwing Jewish extremists, or “price-tag” attackers.
“This is the first attack of its kind,” said Dib Ali Uthman, a veteran resident of Abu Ghosh, as he peered down into the valley at the village’s heart. “Though there was something else during [Meir] Kahane’s day, when they wrote on the outside of a café, ‘Abu Ghosh residents: don’t go out with Jewish girls,’ and Geula Cohen said to Kahane, ‘don’t talk about our Abu Ghosh like that.’” Dib, who also goes by the Hebrew name of Dov, is a friendly 79-year old who seems to be something of a village fixture.
Abu Ghosh has been on famously amicable terms with Zionist leaders since the early 20th century, which is why many residents are dumbfounded by the attacks.
“At the moment when the Jewish nation was weak, Abu Ghosh helped the Jews, during 1948 and before,” Dib continued as he gestured toward the Hebrew graffiti that read “Racism or Assimilation” and “Arabs out,” and laughed lightheartedly.
Local mechanic Ibrahim Suleiman discovered the graffiti on the wall in front of his home at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday, and soon realized that three of his cars’ tires had been slashed. A close friend of Avraham Burg, he noted that the former Knesset speaker’s car, parked in front of his house, had also been vandalized.
“It’s hard to describe how I felt,” he said. “It’s something horrifying. I’m in trauma right now.”
Though optimistic about future prospects for coexistence in the region, he doubts the motives of the government, which has not reached out to assist him in removing the graffiti.
“There is of course a connection between the political far-right and these attacks.
The state is strengthening them, giving them backing.
And instead of calling them terrorists, they just call them ‘disorderly youths,’” Suleiman said, referring to the unknown Jewish vandals.
“I could find 40 ‘disorderly youths’ on this street, but they wouldn’t do something like this.”
Residents reported that by midday, camera crews from around the world had filled the village’s winding streets in pursuit of details about the attacks. But seeking a return to normalcy, locals were more concerned with repairing their damaged vehicles.
“The street was flooded with dozens of garage mechanics, who are working on the tires now. The car is the right hand of every citizen,” said Mayor Salim Jaber during a survey of the damage on Tuesday.
Arsan Abd al-Rahman, a candidate for the local council who reports that the attacks will cost his family over NIS 3,000, believes the incident will negatively influence future relations between Jews and Arabs in the historically peaceful village.
“People are going to become more cautious,” he said. “Every time we see a Jewish family here traveling in Abu Ghosh, we sit down together – but now we might become a bit more reserved. Every time someone comes in a car at night, they’ll be asked, ‘What are you doing? Why are you here?’ It’ll take some time to heal.”
But Abu Ghosh residents are determined to keep their bucolic village a place of peace.
“There are those who don’t like normalcy or coexistence,” said Suleiman, the owner of the vandalized wall.
“They don’t think it’s worth it, so they want to stir up some noise.
“But they’ll never be stronger than us,” Suleiman continued, smiling as the dust from a moving car clouded his eyes. “We’ll never be weak because of 28 tires. Believe me.”