Settling Jaffa, Acre, Lod and Ramle
By Nadav Shragai
The maps and textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority present a picture of a world without Israel. Asraa, Ra'ad, and Rahaam, all of them eight years old and originally "from occupied Safed, Acre, and Haifa," beam with pride as they are interviewed on Palestinian television. Their friends earn high marks and prizes for solving geography riddles about Palestine, "which borders Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt." Catchy video snippets portray the Jezreel Valley as "the bread basket of Palestine," and Lake Kinneret as "the sweet water of Palestine." The country's territory, as one child points out in one of the broadcasts, spans 27,000 square kilometers, rather than 6,220 sq. km., the area of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
In light of this display, which is both fascinating and depressing at once and comes courtesy of the Palestinian Media Watch, mixed Arab-Jewish towns in the country occupy a central place in the public dialogue, and not by chance. Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, is losing its grip on these cities. Neighborhoods and apartment buildings in which Jews have lived in the past are being bought by Arabs. Some of these transactions are private initiatives, while others are part of a deliberate campaign. Take, for example, the plot near the Golani junction where a Hamas charity front nearly succeeded in acquiring land from a cash-strapped Jew. Jewish investors managed to raise the necessary funds, thus rescuing 50 dunams (some 12 acres) of agricultural land.
These rescue missions do not always have a happy ending. In Upper Nazareth, a town established over 50 years ago to solve the demographic problem posed by Arab Nazareth, "for sale" signs adorn dozens of residential structures. The sellers are Jews. The buyers, for the most part, are Arabs. A residential neighborhood originally planned to house career army officers is today inhabited by Arabs. In addition, the population of the Hakramim neighborhood is changing. The Jews are going, the Arabs are coming.
The findings on changing demographics are published primarily in national-religious journals, even though this process ought to concern all Israelis wishing to maintain a Jewish state. Members of the National Union do indeed make the effort to occasionally visit those areas in which the national-religious public has gained a foothold, including mixed cities in which these individuals have in recent years sought to halt the process. Beyond that, however, there has been awful neglect.
The Israeli "mainstream," which for years has preached the need to separate from most of the territories of Judea and Samaria in order to preserve the Jewish character of the state; which is ready to uproot tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in order "to save the state of Israel," today sits and does almost nothing while within the bounds of Little Israel, that which it seeks to allegedly "save," it is losing the demographic battle on a daily basis. When, for instance, did members of Peace Now last visit Carmiel? Why don't secular youth movements emulate their brethren among the national-religious followers who routinely send their members to strengthen the ranks of Jewish inhabitants in mixed towns that are being abandoned by their Jewish residents? Have they despaired of realizing the Zionist dream and achieving a Jewish majority within the Little Israel that lies outside greater Tel Aviv? Or, perhaps, as some of them have delicately hinted, they consider this effort to be racist as well? Could it be that they are bothered by the fact that the settlers in Judea and Samaria have dispatched their best people and rabbis to Jaffa, Acre, Lod and Ramle?
Either way, we will not win this battle with loyalty oaths, neither from the Arab side as demanded by Avigdor Lieberman, nor from the Jewish side. This struggle will be won by populating the settlements - as they are referred to by Palestinians - of Acre, Lod, Ramle and towns of their ilk with Jews.