Israeli Arabs are less sure about where they fit in
Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 07:13 GMT
Israeli Arabs struggle to fit in
Those on board are Palestinians - but they are not from the West Bank or Gaza.
They are Israeli Arabs, some of whom have travelled for several hours to get here.
For more than two years, since the start of the latest intifada, thousands of them have been filling the narrow cobbled streets of East Jerusalem every day.
They come to shop and to pray - and to uphold the city's Arab culture and traditions.
"It is a religious, spiritual and economic project which is to make them strong," says Farid Haj Yehje, one organiser of the trips to the city.
"We have threats, we have unique circumstances, we are at risk, if we don't stop together, stand as one, the worst is to come."
As Israeli elections approach, the country's Arab citizens feel their vote has never meant less.
More than one million Israelis are Palestinians who stayed on after the Arab defeat of 1948 and became part of Israel.
They have five political parties with 10 members in the Knesset.
But since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising, Israeli Arabs are less sure about where they fit in.
They feel alienated from what they see as an increasingly hostile state, and many are rediscovering their Palestinian identity.
Arabs make up 20% of Israel's population. But many feel they are treated as second class citizens, and the sense of alienation is growing.
Amira Abu Zaid's makeshift home is built from pieces of metal, wood and plastic.
It is large enough for her and her 10 children - so long as they sleep next to each other on the floor.
She lives here because the authorities destroyed her house. It did not have a building permit.
But Palestinians in Israel say it is impossible to get them - and they are being stopped from expanding their communities.
"By destroying my house, the Jews have broken me and my children for life and I no longer trust them," she says.
"I don't see what difference elections will make. I don't think it matters whether I vote or not. It didn't in the past."
The divide between Arab areas like this one and the rest of Israel is widening.
Jews are becoming more afraid their Palestinian neighbours will turn on them.
Some have, most have not.
The Arabs are also feeling more vulnerable.
They complain of increasing police harassment and they are angered by attempts to ban their politicians from standing in next week's election.
"Mostly it's the young people who feel hopeless," says Bothaina Dabit, a member of an Arab political party.
"And the Arab minority in general are feeling they are not welcome, that they are being pushed to the side."
Arab politicians are out on the campaign trail, working hard to try to encourage disaffected voters to cast their ballot next week.
It has never been more important, they say; if the Arabs boycott, the right wing will get stronger.
But critics like community activist Amir Makhoul say voting will not make a difference because the system is stacked against them anyway.
"We couldn't use or enjoy our representation in the Knesset. It's not because we are weak and don't know what we want. It's because the system is a racist system.
"The Palestinian community in Israel has become a community at risk, including the members of the Knesset."
Amir Makhoul says Israeli Arabs should strengthen their own institutions and present themselves to the world as part of the Palestinian problem.
The Palestinians in Israel do feel they are at a crossroads. One thing is clear to them - more than 50 years after the foundation of Israel, few Arabs feel at home in a Jewish state.
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace? To the WorldPeace Peace Page
How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?
To the WorldPeace Peace Page