By David Lazarus/Israel Today
Dozens of Arab youth have made a most unexpected and surprising response to “price tag” hate crimes — they restored the ancient Jewish synagogue in their town. Youth from the Arab Christian town Shefaram in the Galilee renovated the 250-year-old synagogue in order to “show that there is a better way.”
Organizers of the synagogue renovation project, which included Arab and Jewish youth, want the government to take action against the “price tag” criminals. “We call upon all citizens of Israel to respond to these hate crimes aimed at Arab Israelis by promoting the values of tolerance and mutual respect,” said a spokesman for the group.
Anger is growing as these “price tag” crimes against Arab citizens of Israel increase. The government has been unable (some say unwilling) to put a stop to radical right-wing Jewish vandalism against Arabs by the group known as “price tag.” Hailing primarily from Judea and Samaria, the group is known to be frustrated with government policies in the disputed territories. They want people to understand that there is a “price tag” for uprooting Jewish settlers from the area. Since 2008, these gangs have been vandalizing mosques, churches and even IDF military bases, but police have had very little success in stopping them.
The US State Department and the UN have recently issued stern warnings for Israel to put a stop to these hate crimes. There is concern that ongoing vandalism by radical Jewish groups against minorities in Israel could escalate to bloodshed.
By responding with love, the Shafaram youth renovated the synagogue in hopes of stirring up public concern over the “price tag” hate crimes. “We call upon the government of Israel and the Prime Minister not only to make proclamations, but to act decisively against these hate crimes we have witnessed recently. We insist that the local police authorities do everything in their power to stop the spread of the this dangerous escalation of violence against Israel’s Arab citizens,” said a spokesman for the group.
“The way the residents of Shefaram show respect for the Jewish house of prayer in our town is a model of cooperation between our two peoples,” said a young Arab girl who helped renovate the old synagogue.
Since January of this year, the “price tag” group has been targeting churches, including a Baptist Church and Orthodox and Catholic church properties around Jerusalem. Most likely the group is trying to draw attention to themselves by stirring up religious tensions in the city. This kind of vandalism provokes strong reactions in Israel, which is why the counter-protest of Arab youth restoring a synagogue is so profound.
Keys for the Shefaram synagogue have been in the hands of Arab overseers since the time of Daher el-Omar, the autonomous Arab ruler of the Galilee region during the mid-18th century. Born in 1690 in Tiberias, el-Omar was the founder of modern Haifa and he fortified many cities in the area. The keys were passed down to an Arab family that lives across the street and gladly opens the synagogue for any Jewish visitors.