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A City in Paralyzing Fear Israel today


In Umm al-Fahm - where another murder took place this week - there is a story about violence in almost every corner • During a visit to the city we heard from the residents about the tension between young people seeking culture, education and integration, and those who advocate religious conservatism Just add to the pressure • Teacher Muhammad Mahagna tries to convey optimism, but clarifies that hope is a rare commodity in the city: "Until recently some of the young people were attracted to ISIS, today these are crime families"

The entrance to Umm al-Fahm is perhaps the best indication of how the first Arab city has grown rapidly over the years - far beyond its physical capabilities. If the veterans remember that the encounter with the first houses in the city involved a ten-minute drive, then already at the entrance the shops and residential areas mingle with each other, fighting for every available piece of land. And this land, which in recent years has become blood-soaked, is becoming more expensive from moment to moment and is considered a sought-after residential area for the Arab population in Israel, as if ignoring everything that is happening around and in the newspaper headlines.

Four million dunams of rare land in the city cost four million shekels. These are imaginary sums for the young couples in the city, who are slowly starting to trickle into places like the nearby Shaked or the economically attractive plowing. The others are trying to fight for the possibility of staying close to the extended family, even if it involves (literally) financial suicide.

Netanyahu's years as prime minister and economic liberalism have polarized Arab society: on the one hand, new rich people who roam the city streets are equipped with Mercedes or a Land Rover Jeep at the cost of a small apartment in Tel Aviv, and a gray market that has grown to such an attractive size for crime. , The same generation that in order to obtain the money for the long-awaited home does not resort to means, even those that will obviously end in tragedy.

"Once, what was an attraction for some of the young people was ISIS and terrorism, today crime attracts them," smiles sadly Muhammad Mahajna, a local teacher who confronts groups of young people who ask him questions about the nature of Israeli democracy in light of what is happening in their city.

"You journalists just remembered that there is a large amount of weapons and a lot of violence here, and why? Because there were the riots in the summer and you suddenly saw that this weapon could be aimed at you too, so you started to show interest. But even when you show interest, in the end you are not aware "For example, a young generation that tries to open the city to performances, culture, sports activities, and conservatism prevents this. And those who do not sometimes see the connection between conservatism and violence, miss a lot of it."

An island of hope.

Umm al-Fahm Hall of Culture // Photo: Gideon Markovich,

Indifference alongside a desire for change

Almost everywhere you go in the bustling city you will find a story about violence.

We climb the stairs of Raslan Mahagna, one of the well-known figures in Umm al-Fahm and who is now the lawyer of the prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison.

"This is our home and we do not intend to go, even people who leave at the end return to Umm al-Fahm, even though the situation is difficult here and sometimes seek refuge."

More and more families are counting the dead: these lost three children in a nonsensical conflict with sons whose parents are part of the crime families, where a doctor came to pick up his wife from the hospital in Afula and was killed only because he was related to the wrong family, and earlier this week Adv. Ganem Jabarin And so it goes on and on, combined with indifference on the one hand and the desire of the younger generation to fight for the character of the city on the other. And yet - and not just for the visitor who peeks for a moment and leaves - Costume.

The vast majority prefer not to speak.

The Israeli media that raided the city frightens the people, and they are completely discouraged by local and national politics.

Even when we travel with Muhammad to the local Hall of Culture, the place where the different worldviews between the secular and the younger generation and the older leadership and the Islamic movement drain, those present in the place prefer to remain silent.

Some simply get up from the chair, smile politely and leave.

And so are some of the interviewees with whom we arranged, who may have preferred not to speak or identify only by their first name.

Umm al-Fahm has a huge passion for cultural evenings and music - but once at such a cultural event they threw a Molotov cocktail, and once, when they wanted to bring rapper Tamer Nafar here, the threats of the Islamic movement made him stay away from the city and not get into unnecessary trouble.

"Culture is also a way to fight violence, culture is something that the younger generation in our city wants and seeks. Whenever there is a music show or a children's show here, the place is blown up by 400 people," Muhammad explains.

This is one of the most beautiful halls in Israel.

The war around him may be less familiar to the Jewish public, but for the younger generation this is the core of the matter, even if the older generation headed by the mayor prefers more modest and traditional performances so as not to upset anyone.

And maybe this is the economy at all.

We have already said that the gray market is thriving in Arab society and in Umm al-Fahm in particular, that the economic entanglements around the lands are gaining momentum, and the corona, which has hit the city hard, has of course not improved the situation.

For Samir Mahmid, the mayor, the recently signed umbrella agreement with the Israel Lands Administration is the most important thing.

The cost of the agreement reaches NIS 800 million and includes the construction of about 12,000 housing units, the addition of public institutions and the treatment of infrastructure.

This is the first umbrella agreement signed with an Arab city, and also the first umbrella agreement signed since March 2019.

Muhammad Mahagna // Photo: Gideon Markovich,

Mahmid was interviewed by the national media and spoke in terms of "history."

For the local public, the Seven Promises, there is not so much room for optimism.

"In the end, these lands will also fall into the hands of crime families, because many people will not meet the economic burden of owning land and building a house," says a local who prefers to remain anonymous, "with forty percent unemployment in the city, who can afford it. Maybe I "Wrong, maybe the thought that this government does work for the Arab public will succeed in moving something for our young people. But at the moment no matter how many people explain to them that violence does not lead to good things, it does not really interest them."

Above poverty and violence

Violence in Arab society is not a new phenomenon, so what has changed anyway? Are these really the last riots in which weapons were aimed at police officers as opposed to the "innocent" stones of the October riots? Maybe it's the fact that crime and money take over everything, and the murders - for example about family honor - become a marginal issue? Or is it that the money from illegal loans and drug trafficking is driving the economy and the arms industry, and respect is already less relevant than the bank account?

Here, too, things seem to be much clearer to the locals than to Jews trying to understand what is going on, and here too they prefer to talk to us by phone rather than mention names. "From the mid-1990s, residents from the West Bank began to come here," a resident of the city tells us. That's how another new group of children who grew up here without a father came in here.

"Now these children have reached the mid-twenties after growing up in poverty, and we know what the options are in these cases. It's not worth much. "

The average income in Umm al-Fahm is NIS 7,360.

"You see," says Muhammad, "even if you are one of the few who can buy a house in an expensive area of ​​the city, at the prices of North Tel Aviv, no one can guarantee you that you will not pass a bullet near the house or that you will have full confidence that someone is protecting you."

Murdered this week.


The loss of trust in the Israel Police, in the face of the 103 murders in Arab society since the beginning of the year, is evident everywhere we go.

The police do not make an effort, and cries such as "If it had been for murdered Jews, the situation would have been different," are heard from all sides.

To all this must be added the political tension and constant hostility towards the state and its institutions among some of the locals.

"When Druze friends want to visit, I tell them in advance that it is better not to come with an IDF uniform, I think it is better for everyone," Raslan explains as we sit in the living room of his house, when night has fallen on the city. That it, too, is constantly falling victim to neglect, while budgets are being cut because it is an activity that does not always align with religion.

In 1995, the local field was opened with great fanfare, and at the festive event, the dedications of the late Ariel Sharon and Raed Salah, chairman of the Islamic Movement, were replaced, but now it does not meet the standard, and the team plays outside the city. With an audience potential of ten thousand spectators and with children and youth departments overflowing, the team's departure from the city for the home games drags a small number of spectators. The football capital of the sector has lost its debut to little Sakhnin, and for the ardent fans sitting in the living room, this is further evidence that in the end conservatism wins, because sport is known as a way out of the cycle of violence.

We leave Umm al-Fahm with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is this beautiful city, with the cool air that reminds us that it is one of the highest places in the area, with the hidden water springs and the desire of the younger generation to integrate and lead in Israeli society in fields such as medicine and law. On the other hand the feeling is that life here is a kind of roulette, and you do not know when and where the next bundle will come from.

"Maybe it suits all parties that the situation stays the same. Conservatism in the city wins, for the government - as long as the violence is only part of Arab society and does not flow out it does not matter, and everyone thinks it will continue. But I and many others like me can not live with things as they are "And we will try to do everything so that this situation changes, and the culture and openness will also have their share in our city," Muhammad concludes, as if trying to encourage us more than himself. 

Source: israelhayom

All news articles on 2021-10-15

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