Jewish and Arab Israelis will come together this evening in Palo Alto in an effort to counter the internal strife in Israel that has broken out alongside the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas. Just this week, rioters in the Arab-Jewish city of Lod burned synagogues, Jews chanted “Death to Arabs” and a police officer was shot in the Arab-Jewish city of Ramle.
“Our goal is to show solidarity that will give hope and support to our families in Israel,” said Offir Gutelzon, an Israeli-American who lives in Palo Alto and is one of the rally’s main organizers. “The conflict we see inside is much more dangerous when it comes to the existence of our society than something external.”
The event, which is happening at Greer Park at 6 p.m., is not supposed to be a “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine” rally, said Gutelzon, but rather to show that “Jews and Aabs refuse to be enemies.”
He said that the violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel is particularly difficult to witness in light of the recent cooperation between the two groups in fighting the pandemic.
“Contrary to the [ongoing] violence,” Gutelzon said, “We have seen Jews and Arabs working closely together” before the conflict in Gaza broke out.
Anas Bder, an Arab-Israeli American from Belmont who is another organizer of the rally, said that the conflict between Arabs and Jews within Israel is “extremely sad” for both him and members of his family who still live in the country.
He said that his sister, who lives near Tel Aviv, is worried about even commuting to her job because of the potential for violence.
A show of solidarity, Bder said, will be a counterweight to the more extreme voices on both sides.
“The fact that we are meeting and showing our voice, [to] just live peacefully and let us not be enemies, is super important,” he said.
Yuval Shchory, a Jewish Israeli from Sunnyvale who plans on attending the rally, said that when the Gaza conflict ends, Arabs and Jews “will have to live together.”
“If we don’t stop fueling the flames, it will be much more painful to go back to a mended fabric of an Israeli state,” he said.
Outside of the United States, organizers in Israel are also putting together “coexistence” events similar to the one in Palo Alto.
According to JTA, The New Israel Fund, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, has already hosted two events in Israel about how Arabs and Jews can coexist with one another during the conflict. Another international nonprofit, The Abraham Initiatives, penned a letter this week with both Arab and Jewish signatories urging an end to violence.