A Coherent Vision for Jews and Arabs Living Together in Peace

Yisrael Rosenberg wrote a piece about the need for a coherent vision for the State of Israel. He proposed a clear vision that I ascribe to. I respectfully request to add a friendly amendment.

We need a coherent vision for Jews and Arabs to live together in peace.

One thing that we need to improve in Israel is the relationship between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. When I make this observation, I get three different responses.

  1. Denial. People tell me that Jews and Israeli Arabs already live together in peace.
  2. Cynicism. People tell me that Jews and Israeli Arabs will never live together in peace.
  3. Fundamentalism. People tell me that Jews and Arabs will live together in peace when the Messiah comes.

First let me address denial. I admit that Jews and Arabs have reached an accommodation. We work together, we study together in Universities, and we are often friends with each other. I am living in Haifa and I come from a neighborhood that is famous for Jews and Arabs living together. This neighborhood, known as Kababir, has a beautiful mosque located in the center of the neighborhood. The neighborhood is about 50/50 Jewish and Muslim. The Muslims of Kababir are famous for being strong supporters of peaceful coexistence. Still, we don’t really live together. The Muslims live in the center of the neighborhood. Jews live higher up the mountain and there is some new development lower on the mountain that is also being populated by Jews. Muslims live near the center. The Muslim children go to a different school than the Jewish children. There is a park in the center of the town that is frequented by both Jews and Muslim children. The children do not play together. The Muslim children are fluent in Arabic. The Jewish children are fluent in Hebrew. It is harder to play together when you speak different languages. It is hard to get to know each other when you don’t go to school together.

Mahmood Mosque Haifa
Mahmood Mosque Haifa Photo CC-BY david55king, Flickr

Jews and Arabs live in separate communities across the country. Drive from Acco to Tiberias and you will pass neighborhood after neighborhood of different ethnic groups. One is Jewish. The next is Muslim. The next is Druze. The next is Bedouin. We live together but we are completely segregated. I lived in Detroit during the race riots in 1967 and in Los Angeles in 1992 during the Rodney King riots. We are used to riots in Israel. Segregation is a recipe for disaster. We cannot afford to live in denial.

There are of course the cynics who believe that Jews and Arabs will never live together in peace. This country was built by dreamers, not by cynics. To assert Herzl in the counter positive, if you don’t dream it, it will never happen. Jews have an obligation to dream and to make these dreams into reality.

I have a dream. My dream is Jews and Arabs truly living together in peace. This means desegregated neighborhoods and desegregated schools. I know that most Jews and most Arabs do not share my dream.

But some do.

Of course I am not talking about desegregating existing communities. People are living where they chose to live. It would make no sense to change that.

Let’s build a new neighborhood.

Let’s build the neighborhood in Jerusalem in the E1 corridor. Let’s make the housing affordable so that people will be motivated to move there.

What a great symbol to build an integrated neighborhood in this location. what a great way to show how ridiculous the argument is that Israel building homes in disputed territory is an obstacle to peace. It is one thing to argue that Jews are stealing Arab land. There is no way to make that argument when it is Jews and Arabs working together to develop the land.

The school curriculum would be a model for the whole country. It is time for Arabs to learn more of our history in their schools. Likewise, Jews should learn more about Arab history and culture. Understanding each other’s history is critical to our relations.

If this works in Jerusalem, it can work in the rest of the country as well.

I see an Israel that is segregated into three nations. Haredim, Jews and Arabs. Each have their own neighborhoods and their own separate school systems. We need to come together as one nation; a Jewish nation with Arab and Haredi minorities. My vision takes Jews and Arabs one major step closer to living together in peace. Someone wiser than me needs to figure out how to integrate the Haredim.

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.