In a remarkable response to the spate of “price tag” hate attacks by Jewish extremists, a group of youths from the northern Arab town of Shfaram teamed up with Jewish counterparts to send a very different message.
Members of the local school system’s youth leadership group, together with young people from Shutafut-Sharakah — a coalition of Jewish and Arab organizations working to build inclusive Israel — joined hands on Sunday to renovate the ancient synagogue in the Galilee town.
The Shfaram synagogue was last renovated 250 years ago, during the reign of Daher el-Omar, the autonomous Arab ruler of the Galilee region during the 18th century and founder of Haifa.
Since the last Jews left the northern town in the early 1920s, the keys to the synagogue were entrusted to members of the Jafari family, who live across the street. To this day, any Jewish visitor to the synagogue retrieves the keys from the Jafaris in order to enter the site.
The initiators of the unique initiative called on the government to take a tougher stand against “price tag” attacks.
“Price tag” is a term used to describe acts of vandalism and violence associated with extremist elements of the Jewish settler movement in retaliation for Palestinian attacks and to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government’s “pro-Palestinian” policies. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted in such assaults.
One of the girls who came to renovate the synagogue said Sunday that Shfaram residents’ history of caring for the synagogue “is an example and a model for coexistence between our two peoples. Every form of worship in the city is part of our heritage, and comes both naturally and unreservedly,” she added.