City Notes: Arab and Jewish Acre residents unite against violence and racism

Weekly roundup of local news around the country.

Demonstrators hold signs and Israeli flags during a rally outside Israel's Embassy in London, to show support for Israel's military action in Gaza (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demonstrators hold signs and Israeli flags during a rally outside Israel's Embassy in London, to show support for Israel's military action in Gaza
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In light of heightened tensions due to the conflict between Israel and Gaza, Arab and Jewish residents of Acre – both religious and secular – have released a call to all fellow residents to unite against violent and racist protests of the kind seen around the country in recent weeks.
The group’s message is that “universal basic values and democratic morals are what enable our existence as a society. Violent protests and cries of racism have no place here – not now and not ever.”
Despite political differences and differences in beliefs, worldviews and lifestyles, the residents say, people must decide to fight as one against violence and incitement, which weaken Israeli society and its ability to deal with external threats.
The Acre Municipality and the Economic Company of Acre have expressed support for the residents’ initiative and are cooperating with them to convey messages of unity and reassurance to the people of the city. Mayor Shimon Lancry made an emotional appeal to residents in a letter last week, writing, “Neither the Jews nor the Arabs who live as neighbors in this city have any interest in letting the difficult external events affect the internal relations in the city. There is no better solution than the solution that members of the community take the fate of the city into their own hands and take responsibility during this time of crisis.”
The people behind the initiative have called on residents of the city not to stand by idly in the face of violence and hate; to educate their children, neighbors and friends; and to resist any attempt at incitement within the city or at harming the fabric of daily life there.
Christians demonstrate for IDF in Haifa
Some 200 Christians demonstrated in Haifa on Sunday night in a show of support for the IDF and in solidarity with the Christians in the Middle East.
The protesters waved banners denouncing terrorism and ethnic cleansing against Christians in the region. At the end of the protest, the demonstrators sang “Hatikva.”
Dozens of Arabs held a counter-protest, and a large police force separated the two groups.
Druse and Circassian tourist villages assist soldiers, southerners
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Hurfeish, a Druse local council in the Upper Galilee, has hosted many families from the South free of charge, expressing a desire to help in any way it can.
In the local council of the predominantly Druse village Kisra-Sumei, delivery packages were organized for soldiers totaling NIS 5,000 in the hope that they would return safely to their families, said Tourism Council director Hamad Abdullah. Residents of the Druse town of Peki’in also organized packages and contributions for the soldiers.
Meanwhile, residents of the Yanuh-Jat local council collected donations and bought huge quantities of supplies for IDF soldiers serving in the South, sending along letters of encouragement as well. From the first day of the conflict, guest-house owners in the area announced that southerners would get significant discounts.
Certified tour guide Mufid Abu Rish from the village of Yarka, who previously served in the military, invited Israeli citizens and particularly residents of the South for free guided tours in the ancient Druse village and to meet with its residents to show support for the soldiers.
“As a Druse tour guide and a former military man, I want to support the IDF commanders and soldiers who are fighting against the extreme terrorist organizations Hamas, [Islamic] Jihad and others, and to say that the IDF is the most moral army in the world,” Abu Rish was quoted as saying.
“Many commanders and soldiers are being killed and wounded because they don’t want to harm civilians, women and children, the opposite of what Hamas does when it hurts civilians and uses them as human shields.”
TAU to award scholarships to students drafted during Protective Edge
Tel Aviv University will award tuition scholarships for the coming academic year to hundreds of students who were called up for reserve duty during Operation Protective Edge. Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter announced the decision on Monday, noting that the grant money would come from donors and friends of the University.
Klafter expressed his appreciation for the calledup students, and said the purpose of the scholarships was to help them make up the studies they had missed and complete their degrees. He emphasized that TAU made great contributions to the state’s security, noting that many students and alumni of the university filled roles throughout the country’s chain of command.
“Many TAU researchers won the Israel Defense Prize for their work for the country,” he added. He expressed hope that the students and all IDF soldiers would return home speedily and safely.
Rishon Lezion caregiver suspected of attacking elderly woman
Police suspect that a caregiver in Rishon Lezion attacked an elderly woman who employed her, the Local website reported Sunday. An off-duty inspector heard cries emanating from a building in front of his home and went to the window to see where the commotion was coming from. He saw a woman trying to force-feed another woman who was sitting in a wheelchair, and after a few minutes she allegedly grabbed her hands and attacked her.
Police arrived at the scene, and the caregiver opened the door, reportedly crying and saying, “I didn’t do anything.”
The police said the elderly woman was lying in her bed, but that they did not noticed signs of violence on her body. The woman’s daughter told police that her mother was sick, and noted which illnesses she had.
Under questioning, the caregiver told police that she had grabbed the woman’s hands in order to give her a pill, and when the woman had objected, the caregiver had yelled at her and ordered her to open her mouth.
According to the Local website, the 34-year-old suspect, a Moldovan citizen, was arrested following the investigation and will be brought to trial.
Swimming championships nixed in Eilat
The World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships, which Eilat was scheduled to host this week, have been canceled due to the security situation in the South. The decision came from FINA, the international governing body of swimming, water polo, diving, synchronized swimming and open-water swimming.
FINA posted a statement on its website over the weekend, reading: “Please be informed that due to the unstable and unpredictable situation in the region, the FINA Bureau unanimously decided the cancellation of the 2nd FINA World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships that were scheduled to take place in the city of Eilat (ISR) from August 28-30, 2014. This exceptional decision was also dictated by notes of concern from various FINA National Member Federations related to the security of their athletes and officials.”
The organization said that it would designate a new organizer for the competition, which would instead take place on September 5-7, probably in Lake Balaton, Hungary.
The heads of the Israeli swimming association spent the past couple of weeks trying to postpone the decision. Israeli Swimming Association chairman Noam Zvi, who had been informed of the intention to cancel the event a week earlier, wrote to the president of FINA, saying, “The concern is understandable, but by the time of the event we expect peace to return to the region. Canceling the competition would be capitulation to terrorism. We have faced similar situations before, and despite this, we successfully held international events and competitions in Eilat, including the European Championships in 2011.”
Following the plea, the decision was postponed by a week, but the outcome was the same in the end.
The Eilat Municipality noted that of the 35 countries registered for the event, the only country to cancel its participation before the competition was nixed was Hong Kong. Mexico had even registered three days before the decision was announced.
Following the announcement, Zvi stated that “two years of work, including many volunteers, large financial investment and mainly a lot of love, went down the drain. But we will recover quickly, and together with our partners, the Eilat Municipality, the Culture and Sport Ministry and the Tourism Ministry and our sponsors, we will double the number of events that we bring to Eilat. This is the only answer we have to this cancellation of the championships. [Happily], the CEO of FINA has already committed to me in writing on this matter.”