Neve Shalom fire - a wake-up call for coexistence and peace - opinion

In recent years, there have been all too many “price tag” attacks in Israeli society. Even one is way too many.

Fire at library in Neve Shalom, September 7, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Fire at library in Neve Shalom, September 7, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A fire at a Jewish-Muslim coexistence community between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is suspected to have been an arson attack.
Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom – is a community of both Arab and Jewish Israelis located near Latrun. The village is “dedicated to building justice, peace and equality in the country and the region.”
The main building of the “School for Peace” was gutted last week on the first day of school and Neve Shalom residents said the fire was set deliberately.
Residents reported another fire at the school on Sunday night but the cause has still to be determined.
Residents of Neve Shalom told KAN news they are fearful that “the hate will get to their/our? houses as well.”
Member of Knesset Ofer Cassif of the Joint List, said the fire was a reminder of the pre-Holocaust adage that “in a place where books are burned, people will also be burned.”
Cassif slammed the prime minister for inciting against the left-wing and Arabs. Although there is no evidence so far that fire was a “terrorist” attack or a hate crime but it puts a spotlight on the issue of intolerance in Israeli society and the need for greater efforts to promote coexistence.
In recent years, there have been all too many “price tag” attacks in Israeli society. Even one is way too many. And we shouldn’t despair that the animosity that has underpinned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be healed.
The example of the Abraham agreement with the United Arab Emirates is a clear example of coexistence between Jews, Muslims and Christians in the region.
Another is the agreement recently presented by the United States between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo was a province of Yugoslavia and it sought to breakaway during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.
Although the war for Kosovo is now more than two decades old, the scars remain. The agreement that has been pushed for the two countries will see attempts to reconcile through discussions about the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and finding missing victims of the conflict.
Israel is not connected to the conflict in the Balkans but the peoples’ desire to find coexistence there rings true with out own conflicts close to home.
The fact that the Trump administration sought to push for Israel to recognize Kosovo and for embassies to be opened in Jerusalem is a step that could lead to more understanding, interaction and solidarity between nations of different religions and outlooks.  
This may seem far-fetched, but the reality is that old ethnic and religious conflicts were part of the process and populism of the last century. The attempt to create ethnic nation states, of which Israel is also partly a result, is a process that also had implications for coexistence.
This week marks the anniversary of a pogrom instigated in 1955 in Istanbul against Greeks, Jews and Armenians. It is also the anniversary of the massacre of Jews in the “Neve Shalom” synagogue in Istanbul in 1986.
Neve Shalom in Istanbul. Neve Shalom in Israel. They are reminders that assaults can be directed at Jews and at Muslims and that a hate crime - if that is what it was - is a hate crime.
Today, there are signs the ground is shifting. Greece and Israel are cooperating more closely than ever on energy projects and on security issues. The UAE is a key ally of Greece, which has sought to resolve its concerns over the name of “Macedonia” with its northern neighbor, North Macedonia. These are all welcome signs for this century.
We can all work together to foster coexistence and be the “Light Unto the Nations” that the Jewish people have taken on as their destiny. This light is not only an ideal that Israel can hold up to others, but a broader light that comes from the joining of different communities through respect and coexistence. It’s a long, complex road to achieve that dream. And as with most long journeys, this one begins at home.