My Daughters’ Arab Election Day

My Daughters’ Arab Election Day

Two of my daughters spent last Tuesday as poll supervisors in Arab communities.

One daughter was placed in a poll in East Jerusalem serving 450 Arab residents. My daughter and 3 other poll officials were there from 7 AM until 10 PM, and only one voter showed up.
This kind of turn-out is typical in East Jerusalem. My daughter’s polling station was located in a school along with 8 other polls serving over 4000 residents. Out of these 4000, only 6 voted.
The reason? Arab residents don’t accept Israeli rule over Jerusalem. Voting would, according to them “normalize the occupation of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem Arabs, if they voted, would make up 1/3 of the city council. But instead of using the democratic system to express their opinions, they choose violent demonstrations and rioting instead.
Before I tell my other daughter’s disturbing election day story, I would like to first make a disclaimer: many Arab-Israelis and Arab-Jerusalemites contribute positively to Israeli society. On a recent visit to the Terem emergency medical clinic for a son’s broken arm, for example, every single medical professional we encountered was an Arab: the nurse, the x-ray technician, as well as the doctor. And this isn’t abnormal, incredibly, a higher percentage of Arabs Israelis work in the medical field than Jewish Israelis (25.2% vs. 23.2%). The same is true in the field of education, 26.1% of Jews work in education vs. 36.5% of Arabs.
But despite their positive contributions, Arab society is complicated, to say the least.
My other daughter (in photo) was assigned to supervise a poll in an Arab town of around 7000 residents in the Galilee.
The vast majority of this town is from the same extended family (my daughter processed over 100 voters with the exact same first and last name)
But I guess this family could be described as somewhat dysfunctional.
Every election is marred by violence between supporters of different parties.
My daughter’s poll served 900 residents, and voter turnout was 90%. By 7 AM there were 200 men waiting outside the school where the voting took place.
At the entrance to the school and again at the entrance to the poll there was a security check. But from the school yard, my daughter could hear violent fighting between the two gangs, accompanied by occasional gun shots. Around 10 AM my daughter heard an explosion. The party representatives from the town at the poll insisted it was just the sound of a slamming door. Later my daughter found out that she had heard an actual grenade exploding in the school yard. But for this town, and the large group of policemen and soldiers on hand, this was business as usual. Voting wasn’t actually paused until somebody was stabbed and rushed to the hospital.
Strangely, during the Arab-Jewish meditation retreat my daughter and I attended before Rosh Hashana, we met the vice-principal of the high school of this very town. He was a peace activist with a doctorate in Arabic poetry who did a poetry workshop with all the attendees (we all had to write a poem containing the phrase “A hole in the security wall.” A typical poem written by an Israeli participant: “Hooray! Hooray! A hole in the security wall! Today is a holiday for Palestinians and Jews alike!” The Arab facilitator’s poem: “Today, you have a holiday. My child is crying. But you don’t hear him, because there is no hole in the security wall.”
The poem I wrote on that September 9th (but had been afraid to share) proved tragically prophetic: “My peace, your pain. Your peace, my pain. A hole in the security wall.”
After the retreat was over, my daughter and I ate lunch with this vice-principal, who was very friendly and told us about his beloved town. He even tried to recruit my daughter to come to teach English at his school. I asked him whether the violence which has plagued the Israeli-Arab community had affected his town as well (in 2023, there were 244 Israeli Arabs murdered by other Arabs, including 16 women and 9 children).
His response: “Baruch Hashem, no! There hasn’t been any violence in my town.”
I guess for him, the shooting, stabbing, grenade-throwing my daughter witnessed aren’t considered violence, since no one’s actually been killed (yet.)
Arabs are complicated. They are complicated as co-citizens and neighbors.
And infinitely more so as enemies. And this is something I wish today’s critics of the IDF and Israel would be able to understand.


One comment

  1. I learned in university here in Israel with Arab individuals who should not have been permitted to continue their studies (they weren’t making the grades) but were pushed all the way through the system due to affirmative action policies.
    It doesn’t make me happy when I’m greeted by Arab medical professionals, I won’t lie. All I can wonder is whether this nurse/doctor/whatever was pushed through the system in a similar way…Doesn’t make me feel like I’m in safe hands, to be honest.
    Oh, and way back then over a decade ago it was quite something to see those same students that I learned with protesting freely on campus against the military operation at that time (can’t remember which one it was)…holding Palestinian flags, calling anti-Israel slogans…on the grounds of the Israeli campus that was pushing them through their studies.
    When will we learn?

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