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Monday, April 02, 2007

Abu Ghosh Mayor attends Chabad rally

Salim Jaber, the mayor of Abu Ghosh, an Arab village located off the main Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway (within the 'green line') near the ultra-Orthodox town of Telz Stone has outraged his constituents by attending and speaking at a pre-Passover rally of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Bloomfield Stadium in Ramat Gan (within the 'green line') where 'right wing Rabbis' were among the speakers. (For the record, I am not an adherent of Chabad - my family came from Lithuania in the old country, and I am what's called a misnaged or mitnaged). In his speech, Jaber committed himself to observing the seven Noahide commandments. A non-Jew who observes the commandments is considered a 'hassid of the world' and guaranteed a place in heaven. The picture at the top left of this post is of Mayor Jaber with Israel's (now suspended) President Moshe Katzav.

Many Rabbis also spoke at the event, and one of them, Shalom Dov Wolpe, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Chabad Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, actually had the 'audacity' to call for 'dismantling' the Olmert government (something most of the country wants), and to express support for the Jews who purchased a home between Hebron and Kiryat Arba from two Arabs who now face a death sentence for selling land to Jews. (By the way, as of this morning, I have not seen that death sentence reported in Israel's - let alone anyone else's - mainstream media). The picture at right is of Rabbi Wolpe.

Abu Ghosh has always been known for its peaceful relations with Jews. This is from a 2003 article in Hadassah Magazine:
“We believe in being good neighbors,” says Salim Jaber, who has been Abu Gosh’s mayor for five years and is soon up for reelection. “We also believe in traditional Arab hospitality.”

This accommodating policy has paid off: Abu Gosh thrives on Jewish business. On Shabbat, when Jerusalem restaurants close, Jews flock to the town for some of the best hummus in Israel. Jewish weddings and bar mitzvas take place at the Bustan, a beautiful green-terraced garden near the mosque. Abu Gosh is also known for Baroque and Renaissance music concerts in the fall and spring. On Sukkot, Notre Dame Arche D’Alliance and the Crusader Church hosted music-lovers from all over for the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival.


In recent years most Israeli Arabs have felt increasingly alienated, both because of the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and perceived government discrimination to their community (see Feature). But Abu Gosh provides a model of coexistence. Jewish businesses are moving there, tempted by low municipal taxes. “When the intifada began,” says Jaber, “Israelis stopped coming for a few months. Business dropped 40 percent. But when they saw that it was quiet, they came back.” He points proudly to the Jewish-run Kessel candle factory, a linen store and a plant nursery.

There are also Jewish-Muslim businesses like that of Jerusalemite Dorit Cohen-Alloro and Sami Ibrahim, an Abu Gosh-born Muslim. They have been partners for 10 years, restoring old stone houses in Jerusalem. “Sami is a master craftsman,” says Cohen-Alloro. “He was involved with the restoration of the Old City synagogues. He knows how to work with stone, and I work with the architects, the clients. He can’t do the work I do, and I can’t do the work he does.

“We’re an example of real Arab-Jewish coexistence. And we’re always arguing,” says a laughing Cohen-Alloro, who has a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy. “He seems easygoing, but Sami has the temper of those who live in Abu Gosh. If he disagrees about something, he’ll throw down his tools and walk away. [But] I wait a few days and then we discuss it again. On the other hand, he always calls us after Ramadan to say that they won’t begin their feast if my family’s not there.”
In fact, the relations have been more than peaceful. This is Abu Sami, a village elder:
“Perhaps because of the history of feuding with the Arabs around us,” Abu Sami reflects, “we allied ourselves with the Jews...against the British. They say that Yosef Abu Gosh helped the Herut leader, Geula Cohen, escape prison. We didn’t participate in the riots during the 30’s and 40’s. We did not join the Arabs from the other villages bombarding Jewish vehicles in 1947. The Palmah fought many villages around us. But there was an order to leave us alone. The other Arabs never thought there would be a Jewish government here.

“During the first truce of the War of Independence,” he recalls, “I was on my way to Ramallah to see my father and uncles, and I was captured by Jordanian soldiers. They accused me of being a traitor and tortured me for six days.”

Issa Jaber, director of the local department of education for the past seven years, feels the personal relationships created with Zionist leaders during the prestate period set the basis for later cooperation. “We had a perspective for the future,” he says.
A 2006 article in the (Vancouver) Jewish Independent noted:
In 1948, when the modern state of Israel became a corporeal reality, many Arab villages were abandoned or destroyed in the ensuing War of Independence. Abu Ghosh was the only one in the area to survive intact and untouched.

"That was because the people in Abu Ghosh have always attached great importance to being hospitable," said Mayor Salim Jaber. "We welcome anybody, regardless of religion or race."
Well, the Mayor does, but as is evident from their reaction to his appearance in Ramat Gan on the same stage as Rabbi Wolpe and other Rabbis, apparently some of his residents are being infected by 'Palestinian' nationalism. Or maybe they're just unhappy that the Mayor accepted the Noahide commandments? (None of which conflict with Islam by the way - see below).
"What was said there was said in his name alone," regional council opposition member Hussam Othman told Ynet.

"Jaber participated in the event because he likes publicity," Othman explained. "It is unacceptable for an Arab to consort with rightists. It dirties the name of the village.

"The village is a supporter of coexistence with everyone. When an Arab says he supports a settlement, it's simply ludicrous," he added. [I guess Jews who live in 'settlements' aren't included in 'everyone' in Mr. Othman's world. CiJ]


Another member of the regional council opposition, Yusef Ibrahim, said: "It's good for the nation to advance peace and not to pander to extremists.

"We're all against this," he added, emphasizing that his stance was not motivated by internal politics. "We're looking for ways towards peace and coexistence, not the opposite."

"As a resident from Abu Gosh, the mayor brought shame on the village with his behavior, instead of strengthening our ties with the Arab world," said an Abu Gosh resident who asked to remain anonymous.
Jaber, to his credit, is sticking to his guns:
"We in Abu Gosh live amongst Jews and are a symbol for coexistence. I was invited and came (to the rally) as a good neighbor and as a resident of Israel, in order to honor others," he said.

The mayor said he went to the rally in order to extend greetings for Passover, exactly as his Jewish neighbors wish him during Muslim holidays.

"I didn't change my religion or nationality and didn't sign a petition to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque. I merely signed the Seven Commandments of the Descendants of Noah – these are basic things such as not to murder and not to steal, nothing more," he explained.
The seven Noahide laws or commandments (in general terms) are the following:
Do not worship Idols

Do Not Blaspheme His Name

Do Not Murder

Do Not Commit Immoral Sexual Acts

Do Not Steal

Pursue Justice

Do not be cruel to animals.
I hope Mayor Jaber has a good security detail. Unfortunately, the Muslims are not known for their tolerance.


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