Israel/Palestine,  Your View

Living Together

This is a guest post by Alex Stein of

The Shas Housing Minister Ariel Atlas is an opponent of Israeli democracy:

“I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the State of Israel,”

Atlas told a conference of the Israel Bar Association, which focused on reforming Israel’s Land Administration.

This is profoundly anti-democratic. All Israeli citizens should have the right to live wherever they want in the country. If they act against the state, they should be prosecuted.

He continued,

“if we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee [i.e. to Jews]. Populations that should not mix are spreading there. I don’t think that it’s appropriate [for them] to live together.”

Always beware those who would tell you who it’s appropriate and not appropriate for you to live with. It is none of their business. And lest you think he merely doesn’t want Jews living with Arabs:

“There is a severe housing crisis among the young ultra-Orthodox couples, and in the general population. I, as an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, don’t think that religious Jews should have to live in the same neighbourhood as secular couples, so as to avoid unnecessary friction. And since some 5,000 to 6,000 religious couples get married each year, a problem arises because they require a certain kind of community life that goes along with their lifestyle.”

Tough. In a democratic country people must learn to live alongside those with different lifestyles. I live in a neighbourhood which is about 30% religious and there are no problems. Here’s an example: Now it’s summer, I go to the laundrette late on Saturday-afternoon. I carry my clothes in a suitcase, the rumbling of the wheels creating an echo in the alleys of the Vineyard. If I do my washing while there are services in synagogue, I take a detour so as not to disturb prayers. But nobody forces me to do so. If I walked past with my suitcase, or talking on my mobile, there would not be a riot. Religious and secular people are quite capable of living side-by-side, and we do not need Mr Atlas to set the bar for integration so low.

It’s ok though. There is a solution:

“I plan to market large amounts of land to the Arab population in the Galilee in order to solve their problems, as well as land for secular and religious Jews.”

I did not come to Zion to live in a box; I came here to be an Israeli. The key to saving Israeli democracy is to promote a shared sense of Israeliness among all the different populations in this country. This is no wild fantasy, and is the only way to save the state from the racism and intolerance of our Housing Minister.