Third Ma'alot-Tarshiha coexistence parley focuses on Israel's mixed cities

Speaking of the increase in mixed regions and cities throughout Israel, Abraham Fund Initiatives Director Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu on Tuesday stressed the need for urban policy reform and a greater focus on the issue of coexistence, which he said was affecting more Israelis and Arabs every day. "Over 2.5 million Israeli citizens now live in mixed cities and regions, and this issue must be addressed as a policy imperative. This statistic illustrates the need for urban planning, local political representation and appropriate education infrastructure to accommodate the Arabs in these cities and regions," he said. "Today, it would be difficult indeed to find a city or region within the country that is not in some way mixed, with Jews and Arabs living side-by-side, interacting in the workplace, recreation, education and housing." Be'eri-Sulitzeanu's remarks came during the third annual Ma'alot Tarshiha coexistence conference, a one-day event focused on stimulating discourse regarding the coexistence movement and encouraging action by top officials to better the quality of life for Jews and Arabs living in mixed cities in Israel. The Abraham Fund Initiatives, which advocates for coexistence, tolerance and equality amongst Jews and Arabs living in mixed regions, also held a separate session focusing entirely on the need for urban policy legislation to face the issue of increasing mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel. Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman attended the conference, as did local leaders including Mayor of Acre Shimon Lankri, Misgav Regional Council Head Ron Shani and Mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshiha Shlomo Buhbut. Co-Executive Director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives Muhammad Darawshe told attendees that "the mere presence of these government officials shows the seriousness and importance of the issue, although this is not enough. We must see the crystallization of clear policy legislation." In cooperation with Abraham Fund Initiatives, the Municipality of Ma'alot-Tarshiha, the Western Galilee Academic Institution, The Authority for the Development of the Galilee, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports all contributed to making the conference happen.