Arab Israeli children face danger of violence and crime

Consider for a moment the life of a normal seven-year-old. My son’s reality does not look like that. As a mother, my dilemma is constant.

Arab leaders stand in front of a sign that reads "We want to live without violence and crime" (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Arab leaders stand in front of a sign that reads "We want to live without violence and crime"
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Consider for a moment the life of a normal seven-year-old: He or she is already going to the neighborhood grocery store alone, going to school, and going out into the yard to play catch, or hide-and-seek or soccer.
My son’s reality does not look like that. He says, “Ima, I want to play in the yard. Can you come with me?” He already knows that there is violence and gunfire everywhere, and if you step outside at the wrong moment you may be hit by a “stray” bullet, or be harmed by bullying on the road.
As a mother, my dilemma is constant: Allow him to go outside as a child his age wants and can do and pay for it with stress and anxiety, or imprison him at home and be comforted that no harm will come to him? As a working woman who is away from home for many hours every day, the issue of personal security is a constant preoccupation.
Precisely because of this, for the future of my children, I struggle daily to end the violence and crime that have become pervasive most everywhere in Arab society. I do this work so my kids can go to school without fear of violence, and come home without hearing gunshots on the streets and without fear of stray bullets. I want to live with a sense of security; it’s something every citizen of this country deserves.
Violence and crime have many causes, and they cannot be resolved easily. There is no magic solution but there are many things that need to be done, and only in-depth systemic change – in law enforcement and policing – will bring about the desired change. At the Abraham Initiatives, I work with my co-director Ruth Levin-Chen and with a team of local coordinators in the field, and with decision-makers to implement these solutions.
In recent months, Arab society has taken to the streets and demanded the security it deserves. Our demands and our cries were heard in the corridors of the government, and we are beginning to see results. However, these are very preliminary results, and we need to keep a close watch on their development. During the recent election season, we worried the issue would be forgotten and that these accomplishments might be undone after the election.
AMONG THE things that have already begun to happen are: The establishment of an inter-ministerial task force in the Prime Minister’s Office that looks at innovative solutions to crime and violence; a declaration of the intention to investigate the State Comptroller; an operation to collect illegal weapons; the announcement by the national unit of the police to deal with the phenomenon of crime families; and the recent arrest of 12 significant figures in crime organizations.
It is vital that we keep the momentum that has been built. The Knesset is one of the centers of action for combating violence and crime in Arab society. In order to ensure that progress continues in this 23rd Knesset, we – the Abraham Initiatives and our partners at the Amman Center – ran a pre-election campaign called “The 100-Day Plan to Eliminate Violence and Crime.” The plan consists of five immediate steps that parties and Knesset members will undertake to advance in the first 100 days of the 23rd Knesset.
As part of the campaign, we urged the Arab public to come out and vote in elections, and demand that candidates and decision-makers from across the political spectrum prioritize the issue and commit to promoting the plan.
The 100-day plan to eradicate violence and crime in Arab society was born of the acute need for real and immediate solutions, along with long-term interventions. At the center of the plan are five steps that the Knesset members can implement in the first 100 days of the Knesset:
1. Declaration of a national state of emergency: Declaring violence and crime in Arab society an emergency and developing a five-year plan for comprehensive intervention into the depths of the phenomenon.
2. Budgeting for, and expanding programs to combat violence against women: Doubling the amount allocated to the National Program for Combating Violence against Women to NIS 500 million, and its actual implementation.
3. City-wide security camera networking: Increasing personal security through the networking of all Arab localities in Israel through security cameras, coordination and cooperation with local authorities.
4. Stricter punishment against criminal organizations: Declaring a war on crime organizations and advocating for legislation required to eliminate them.
5. Elimination of weapons and drug-selling locations: Clearing Arab localities of illegal weapons and places where drugs are sold, in coordination with local authorities.
Dozens of prospective members of the 23rd Knesset signed on to the 100-day plan. It has had a real impact on Arab society, and kept the issue of violence in the public awareness during the elections. Now that the election results are in, our next step is to keep up our work in the field, and our pressure on the government and the police to continue on the right path toward a safer society for Arab citizens of Israel who are plagued by this serious crisis of personal security.
The writer is the co-director of the Safe Communities Initiative at the Abraham Initiatives.