Arab Israeli woman launches bid for top Jerusalem city post

Sondos Alhot heads a new political party called 'All Its Residents'


Sondos Alhot is adamant she doesn’t want to be a mother. But she would like to be a member of the Jerusalem City Council.

The 33-year-old Arab Israeli with Palestinian roots, born in Nazareth, says she “doesn't want to expose children to this awful current state of Israeli politics, it’s scary”. 

She’s happy to get involved herself, however. She heads a new political party called “All Its Residents” which is contesting municipal elections in Jerusalem this month.

It is the first time that an Arab Israeli has run for office. Alhot heads the party list and is hoping to win enough votes to be elected to the City Council, although her chances of doing so are slim given that so few Arabs vote.

“It has never been done before but something has to change once and for all. Arabs do not ever vote in elections. I am telling Arabs to vote and be counted,” she says.

According to Alhot, some Palestinians have threatened members of the new party. “They also told the Jerusalem residents, those without citizenship, not to vote for us. If they do it’s as if they recognise the state of Israel, and what they say is occupation -— this is what Arabs in Jerusalem think. They can’t talk to Waleed and myself because we are Israeli citizens, coming from Nazareth, but those without citizenship are under the PA’s authority.  I am not going to be frightened off or intimidated. It’s no longer going to work.

“Despite the threats I cannot stay here and watch my country and be silent. I will not stop until I reach the Knesset one day. Many Palestinians ask me who they think I am trying to change Israeli politics. I told them it’s been 75 years and nothing has changed, at least I am trying to make a change. They should thank me as a woman for trying to change everything.”

Alhot believes that the time has come to create peace by bringing Arab Israelis, Israeli Jews and Palestinians together. One of the things she does is create language groups for women where she is teaching Hebrew and Arabic so that communication can bridge gaps.

“You can’t believe how scared some Israeli women were of Arab women wearing hijabs, and vice versa with Arab women. Eventually the longer they spent together learning, the bond grew and they realised they are all the same. It’s all about education.

“There are quite a lot of Israelis that support our group, they want Israel to be a liberal society. There are also lots of Arabs that want to change but are scared of the Palestinian hardliners who are afraid of change, and don’t even know how to go out and vote, who to call.  They don’t even know that if they have Israeli ID they can go out and vote.  They aren’t even taught about Israel in schools — 80 per cent of their schools learn from Jordanian textbooks.”

Alhot believes that this will also have a knock-on effect on the rising Arab-on-Arab crime rate. “Boys take the shortcut to money like the black market and crime.”

The Arab crime rate in 2023 has spiralled this year, leaving at least 173 Arab Israelis killed so far, with children being caught in the crossfire between rival gangs. Arab Israelis blame the Israeli police for being too distracted by the political drama, the regular anti-judicial-overhaul protests, and the recent rise in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“I am starting in Jerusalem, the holiest place of them all. We must live in peace and safety,” says Alhot.

The Jerusalem mayoral election will be held on October 31 as part of nationwide municipal elections.

According to a recent Maariv survey, incumbent mayor Moshe Lion has 48 per cent of voters. His nearest rival was on 18 per cent.

“As the mayor of Jerusalem, I see the Arabs of Jerusalem as equal residents who should be equally cared for,” Lion told the JC. “I would be happy if they wanted to vote, however, they have always refrained from voting due to the political position of the Palestinians.

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