Arab families back out of J'lem neighborhood patrol program

Pisgat Ze'ev community employee: The current political environment in Jerusalem was certainly an issue, and I think they were scared.

arab old city 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
arab old city 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
They went through professional training courses and were briefed by local police, but just days before a joint Arab-Jewish parents' patrol in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of Jerusalem was supposed to take off, it completely fell apart. The patrol, which was formed in response to an escalation in violent incidents between Jewish and Arab youth in the neighborhood in recent months, was supposed to help prevent violence between the two sides, and had originally consisted of the parents from three Jewish and three Arab families, all of whom live in the neighborhood. But after weeks of training and preparing for nightly forays to the local mall and other known flash-points for the neighborhood's young people, community administration workers in Pisgat Ze'ev told The Jerusalem Post that the Arab families had asked to stop participating in the effort, due to "political and emotional" issues. "It's a very emotional issue," said one community administration employee, who asked that his name be withheld. "The current political environment in Jerusalem was certainly an issue and I think, personally, that these Arab families were scared. Maybe members of their family dissuaded them from continuing on with it, I'm not sure, but the bottom line is, they've stopped participating." "It's really a shame," said the administration worker. "I had high hopes for this project." While Jewish parents in the neighborhood have been leading similar patrols for nearly three years, the administration employee said the participation of Arab parents would have lent more legitimacy to their efforts, especially when confronting Arab youth. "These parents would have been able to speak to them in Arabic, and diffuse some of the tension here," he said. "I think it would have opened the doors for more participation in other areas as well, because there is an Arab community in Pisgat Ze'ev and we want to include them." But tensions between the two communities have been on the rise. On Holocaust Remembrance Day last year, two Arab teenagers were beaten and stabbed by a group of Jewish youths near the mall - one of the events that lead to the formation of the joint patrols. "The idea was that they [parents] would go out and try and prevent Arabs and Jews from fighting," the administration worker said. "But not just Arabs and Jews. It doesn't matter - any act of violence, and drinking or drug use - they would try and talk to the kids and prevent these things. Now that it's summer [and kids are out of school], their help could certainly be used." While the previously-existing patrols of Jewish parents are ongoing, the community administration said they only had enough participants to conduct two patrols a week - hardly enough over the summer. But administration workers also said they were hopeful the project could still get off the ground. "There's no meat left, just bones," the administration worker said of the project. "But hopefully, in the future, we'll be able to convince the Arab families that we want and need their help. But that's something that could take months, or more. In the meantime, we'll just have keep doing what we've been doing, and hope for the best."