Protest outside of Peres event in Nazareth 390.
(photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
President Shimon Peres visited Nazareth on Monday as part of an effort to reach
out to the city’s 80,000 Arab residents, and concluded the visit with a historic
pledge to set up an institute of higher education – the first of its kind in the
His visit drew a mixed response. While the city’s top
representatives welcomed the president, a group of around 60 activists waving
Palestinian flags arrived from the Balad political party and the Islamic
Movement, and staged a protest outside of a municipal cultural center where
Peres spoke, as a police helicopter hovered overhead.
The protest was
mostly peaceful, though two Balad activists were arrested for disturbing the
peace and attacking police.
Addressing youths at the city’s municipal
library, Peres said, “You are an important and inseparable part of Israeli
society and Israeli society needs you.” He told the children that they were
entitled to full equality so that they could realize their
Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, in welcoming Peres to his city,
said the president had a rich record of advocating equal opportunities for Arabs
and Jews in all his previous roles. Jaraisy added that he was confident that
Peres would continue with that policy. The mayor asked Peres for assistance in
establishing an institute of higher education in Nazareth – and gained the
president’s immediate approval.
“I say he should come, though he is not
loved here,” Riad Sahdal, a local resident, told The Jerusalem Post near the
scene of the protest.
Sahdal lamented the poor economic state of the
city, and called on the government to investment more in Arab areas.
state of Israel is my mother, and the Palestinian people are my father. I cannot
give up on either,” Sahdal added. “We pay taxes and work, but our situation is
bad. Are we citizens or are we guests?” he asked. “It’s not enough to just come
and shake hands. We need policies to improve our situation.”
“We have no
factories. Tourists who come only pray, they do not contribute to the
local economy,” Sahdal added.
During his tour of the city, Peres met with
some 150 religious and civic dignitaries, and called for full equality between
Arabs and Jews in education and economic opportunity.