by Jonathan Cook in Nevatim
The Zakai and Tarabin families
should be a picture of happy coexistence across the ethnic divide, a
model for others to emulate in Israel.
But Natalie and Weisman Zakai
say the past three years -- since the Jewish couple offered to rent
their home to Bedouin friends, Ahmed and Khalas Tarabin -- have been a
“I have always loved Israel,”
said Mrs Zakai, 43. “But to see the depth of the racism of our
neighbours has made me question why we live in this country.”
Three of the couple’s six dogs
have been mysteriously poisoned; Mrs Zakai’s car has been sprayed with
the words ”Arab lover” and the windows smashed; her three children in
school are regularly taunted and bullied by other pupils; and a
collection of vintage cars in the family’s yard has been set on fire in
what police say was an arson attack.
To add to these indignities, the
Zakais have spent three years and thousands of dollars battling through
the courts against the elected officials of their community of Nevatim,
in Israel’s southern Negev desert, who have said they are determined to
keep the Tarabins from moving in.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
Last week the Zakais’ legal
struggle looked like it had run out of steam. The supreme court told the
two families the Tarabins should submit to a vetting committee of local
officials to assess their suitability – a requirement that has never
been made before by the Negev community in the case of a family seeking
to rent a home.
“The decision of the committee
is a foregone conclusion,” Mr Tarabin said.
Chances for Jews and Arabs to
live together -- outside of a handful of cities -- are all but
impossible because Israel’s rural communities are strictly segregated,
said Alaa Mahajneh, a lawyer representing the Zakais.
Israel has nationalised 93 per
cent of the country’s territory, confining most of its 1.3 million Arab
citizens, one-fifth of the population, to 120 or so communities that
existed at the time of the state’s creation in 1948.
Meanwhile, more than 700 rural
communities, including Nevatim, have remained exclusively Jewish by
requiring that anyone who wants to buy a home applies to local vetting
committees, which have been used to weed out Arab applicants.
But Mr Mahajneh, from the Adalah
legal centre for the Arab minority, noted that legal sanction for such
segregation was supposed to have ended a decade ago, when the supreme
court backed an Arab couple, the Kaadans, who had been barred by a
committee from the community of Katzir in northern Israel.
Although the Kaadans were
eventually allowed to move into Katzir, the case has had little wider
In fact, Mr Mahajneh said, the
decision in the Zakais’ case suggests “we’re going backwards”. The
Kaadans won the right to buy a home in a Jewish community, whereas the
Tarabin family were seeking only a short-term rental of the Zakais’
The Zakais said they had been
told by the officials of Nevatim, a community of 650 Jews a few
kilometres from the city of Beersheva, that it would not be a problem to
rent out their home.
Mrs Zakai brought the Tarabins’
ID cards to the community’s offices for routine paperwork. “When I
handed in the IDs, the staff looked at the card and said, ‘But they’re
Muslims’.” Later, according to Mrs Zakai, the council head, Avraham Orr,
rang to say he Arabs would be accepted in Nevatim “over my dead body”.
Several weeks later, Mrs Zakai
said, two threatening men came to their door and warned them off renting
to Arabs. Soon afterwards 36 cars belonging to Mr Zakai, who has a used
car business, were set on fire.
Then behind the Zakais’ back,
Nevatim went to a local magistrate’s court to get an order preventing
them from renting their home. The couple have been battling the decision
Mr Mahajneh said the Tarabins
had accommodated a series of “extraordinary conditions” imposed by
Nevatim on the rental agreement, including certificates of good conduct
from the police, a commitment to leave after a year, and limited access
to the house’s extensive grounds.
But still Nevatim officials were
dissatisfied, insisting in addition that the Tarabins submit to
questioning by a vetting committee to assess their suitability. Although
40 other homes in Nevatim are rented, Mr Mahajneh said testimonies from
past members of the vetting committee showed that this was the first
time such a demand had been made.
“It is true that anyone buying a
property in Nevatim is supposed to be vetted by the committee, but
there is no reference in the community’s bylaws to this condition for
renters,” Mr Mahajneh said.
In 2008, a district court judge
in Beersheva overruled Nevatim’s new condition, arguing that the vetting
requirement would be “unreasonable and not objective”. The supreme
court judges, however, sided with Nevatim in their concluding statements
on March 10.
Mrs Zakai said they had offered
to rent their home to the Tarabins after the Bedouin couple’s home burnt
down in their village in early 2007, killing one of their 10 children.
The Tarabins have been living with relatives ever since, unable to
afford a new home and keen to move away from the site of the tragedy.
Mr Tarabin, 54, said: “I want
Khalas to rest and heal and this place would have been perfect for her.
The house has large grounds and we could have kept to ourselves. No one
in Nevatim needs to have anything to do with us if they don’t want.”
A Nevatim resident who spoke
anonymously to the Haaretz newspaper last week suggested reasons for the
community’s opposition: “If tomorrow the entire Tarabin tribe wants to
live here and we don’t agree, what will people say? The problem will
start after the first one comes because then dozens more families will
want to move here.”
The close friendship forged
between the Zakais and Tarabins is rare in Israel. The privileged status
of Jews legally and economically, communal segregation and the
hostility provoked by a larger national conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians ensure that Jewish and Arab citizens usually remain at
But Mr Zakai, 53, whose parents
emigrated from Iraq and who speaks fluent Arabic, befriended Mr Tarabin
in the late 1960s when they were teenagers in Beersheva. Later they
served together in the Israeli army as mechanical engineers.
Mrs Zakai said: “If Jews were
being denied the right to live somewhere, it would be a scandal, but
because our friends are Arabs no one cares.”
Avraham Orr, the Nevatim council
head, denied that he was opposing the Tarabins’ admission because they
are Arab. “There are rules,” he said. “Every family that wants to buy or
rent a property must first go through the committee.”
Fearful of the implications of
the Kaadan ruling, Jewish communities in the Galilee unveiled a new
approach to barring Arab applicants last year. They introduced bylaws
amounting to loyalty oaths that require applicants to pledge to support
“Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land”.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and
journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and
the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle
East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments
in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.