Jewish Arab village in the spotlight after Israel passes nationality law
Some ambassadors to Israel celebrate their country’s national day at the poolside of their official residences in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv. Others mark the day with receptions at fancy Tel Aviv hotels. Swiss Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch chose to celebrate his country’s independence in a unique spot. He will welcome his guests, among them government, Foreign Ministry and Knesset representatives, to the Jewish Arab village of Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam, which lies midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The principles on which this community, the first and only one of its kind, was founded run counter to the spirit of the nationality law — Israel’s new law that excludes the country’s 20% Arab minority, strips their mother tongue of its official status and negates their national narrative.
The official invitation to the event says that Neve Shalom — Hebrew for “Oasis of Peace” — is a village of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli citizens working together for justice, peace and equality in the country and the region. Its vision, the invitation quotes from Neve Shalom’s founding principles, is to offer "a model of equality, mutual respect and partnership, challenging the existing patterns of racism and discrimination as well as the continued conflict.” Contrary to the nationality law, which reads that Israel “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment,” the 70 Jewish and Arab families living in the village reject the idea of Jewish-only communities. The Arabic language has equal footing with Hebrew. The village children attend a bilingual school and unlike other Israeli schoolchildren, are allowed to mark the Palestinian Nakba and to protest the Israeli occupation.