By Daniella Peled
October 16, 2008
The ancient port town of Akko has a special place in my family history. That’s where my parents went on their first date (well, strictly speaking their second, which itself was something of a miracle since they didn’t really like each other at first). But on that warm September afternoon they rambled through the souk, they strolled along the soaring Crusader battlements, they ate at the famous Abu Christo fish restaurant – and, reader, six weeks later she married him.
Yesterday was their 49th wedding anniversary. But relations in the town where they fell in love are hardly as successful. The five days of violence which rocked the mixed Jewish-Arab town have been described as “a pogrom” by both sides. If tensions and resentment are there, bubbling away beneath the surface, then it doesn’t take much for them to erupt. And all it did take, it seems, was an Arab driver entering a Jewish neighbourhood on Yom Kippur - according to some reports, playing loud music and smoking a cigarette.
Now this is boorish behaviour, perhaps –provocative at worst. But had a Jewish driver done the same thing, the result would not have been five days of secular-religious rioting, dozens of arrests, and scores of cars and businesses wrecked. Neither the government, nor leaders on both sides, have done enough to address the divisions and tensions between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. The issues have been delayed, and fudged, and avoided. But they quite clearly don’t go away.
Akko is a beautiful, historic, ancient place. It should be a jewel in Israel’s crown, not somewhere where family houses are firebombed.