Minority retort: 7 things to know for August 2
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Minority retort: 7 things to know for August 2

The Druze say protests against the nation-state law will continue and Jerusalem gears up for gay pride, but would-be mayors are more interested in looking backward

Members of Israel's Druze community gather to attend a celebration at the holy tomb of Nebi Shu’eib in northern Israel on April 25, 2018. (AFP Photo Jalaa/Marey)
Members of Israel's Druze community gather to attend a celebration at the holy tomb of Nebi Shu’eib in northern Israel on April 25, 2018. (AFP Photo Jalaa/Marey)

1. After days of protests against the nation-state law, the Druze community seems to be nearing a compromise deal with the Netanyahu government, but they are not quite there yet. A day of high optimism gave way to a statement Thursday morning that while hopeful for some sort of resolution, indicated that the Druze were not accepting whatever bones the government was throwing their way.

  • Yedioth reports that while community leader Shiekh Muafak Tarif and others were prepared to accept the historic compromise, which would see a new law pushed forward giving the Druze a special status as well, others are not pleased.
  • One of those people was former deputy foreign minister Majale Wahabe, who says another giving yet another group a special status doesn’t fix the root problems of the legislation.
  • “This isn’t how you build. You need to get the Druze community in a single law for everyone with no distinction for anyone. This is not a single law and I’m not going to be led astray by a proposal that is expressed by putting one group above another. Where have we come to with this?”
  • Another member of the community, Amir Khnifess, tells Army Radio that even if they did accept the proposal they would still protest in Rabin Square Saturday night: “The nation-state law put an end to the previous situation with regards to minorities. We’ll come and protest regardless of what happens with the [new] proposal.”
  • “The State of Israel respects our dead, but not our living,” Druze man Naser Saba, whose brother was killed in a military operation and buried in a casket wrapped in an Israeli flag, tells the Wall Street Journal. “We want to be wrapped in the flag when we’re alive too.”

2. In Haaretz, former Knesset speaker and Jewish agency head Avraham Burg says he is requesting the government, which stamps ID cards with ethnicities, remove “Jewish” from his ID status and define him as only Israeli, something that will likely require a long lawsuit.

  • “I am a member of the Jewish people, but my Jewishness has no genetic or national significance that obligates me,” he writes, and also calls on Meretz and the Joint List to quit the Knesset en masse in protest.

3. De facto government mouthpiece Israel Hayom is already in celebration mode, its print edition having gone to bed before the news broke that the protest would continue.

  • “Netanyahu is on his way to defusing another landmine,” the paper’s Motti Tochfeld crows in a column.
  • Druze lawyer Fahad Safadi writes in the paper that the nation-state law has no actual effect on minorities, who should be happy to live in a Jewish state anyway: “I wish our neighbors in Arab countries, including our Druze brothers, could merit an Arab national home like the Jewish one where we enjoy its democracy and prosperous economy,” he writes.

4. The Jerusalem Pride Parade is set to kick off Thursday afternoon, with more people, and more cops expected than ever.

  • The official theme of the march is honoring pioneers in the community, but it’s expected to be heavily overshadowed by protests over a law which continues to make it impossible for gay men to have babies through a surrogate in Israel.
  • As with past years, victims of anti-LGBTQ violence will also be memorialized, particularly Shira Banki, who was stabbed to death at the parade three years ago.
  • With the protest coming a day after the anniversary of the Bar Noar shooting in Tel Aviv, a joint memorial is planned for Banki and Nir Katz, killed in the 2009 attack, in the sleepy town of Modi’in, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Following the memorial, participants will drive to Jerusalem in a slow moving convoy as a protest against anti-gay violence, before joining the march.
  • The march comes days after some 200 rabbis wrote a letter calling members of the community “perverts” and comparing them to terrorists.
  • JTA reports that at the parade, organizers will be presented with a counter letter, signed by 75 Orthodox rabbis and counting, decrying their colleagues’ language and urging inclusiveness in the Orthodox world.
  • “Instead of hate, let us offer love. Where others demean, let us strive for equality,” the letter says.
  • That same spirit of hope runs through a short column in Yedioth by Miri Mesika, who will perform “Shira’s Song” in memory of Banki at the march Thursday: “We’ll yet see the light of the moon shining on us with all the colors of the rainbow,” she writes, riffing off a line in the song.

5. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat in years past refused to march in the parade for fear of alienating the ultra-Orthodox in his city council coalition.

  • With elections coming up one might think that all the candidates would show up, but it seems only one has actually committed, with several others already declining.
  • In early July, the Mynet website asked all seven candidates who had then declared their candidacy if they would attend. Only one, Yossi Habilio, said he would, while three others — Zeev Elkin, Moshe Lion and Avi Salman — say they will not, with Salman saying he may even try to get in canceled if he’s elected.
  • Yossi Duetsch, an ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor who has since announced, is almost certainly a no-show, but two others who one might think are shoo-ins were non committal: MK Rachel Azaria and Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch.
  • Berkovitch even marched in last year’s parade, but would only say he will lay flowers at a memorial for Banki.

6. Elkin and Lion won’t march with the LGBT community, but they were happy to show support for the right-wing community, taking part in a ceremony to open a new heritage center in the heart of Silwan, an Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood that used to house a sizable Jewish Yemenite population.

  • Though the ceremony was festive, ToI reporter Sue Surkes notes it was a celebration in a bubble, with the Jews heavily guarded from their Arab neighbors.
  • “Just as we are proud to be connected with everything happening in the City of David, we are proud to be connecting with the history of the Yemenite immigration here,” Elkin is quoted saying by Surkes, referencing another part of Silwan, where Jews associated with the right-wing El Ad organization are creating tourism projects and settling Jews.
  • Though the use of the building, acquired in 2015 by the right-wing Ateret Cohanim organization, which settles Jews in East Jerusalem, is controversial to some, both brushed away the concerns, with Elkin calling Jews moving into the neighborhoods “historical justice” and Lion saying he wanted to see a lot more projects like it.“We know that this was a well-orchestrated plan to force us to leave,” Yakoub al-Rajabi, who lives in the neighborhood, tells the Washington Post. “And if we stay, it will paralyze us and isolate us in our homes.”

7. Just a few kilometers and a whole world away, Israel’s first museum to the life and times of Jesus Christ is reopening, Haaretz’s Moshe Gilad reports.

  • The museum, in the Jerusalem Old City’s Church of the Flagellation, first opened over 100 years ago, and now becomes somehow the only museum in the whole country exploring life during the time of Jesus.
  • Perhaps even more surprising, writes Gilad, is that the museum “explicitly appeals to an Israeli audience, both Jewish and Arab, and not just to Christian pilgrims.”
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