“There would be no Arabic schools!”
“Nazareth Illit will safeguard the Jewish character of the Galilee as a whole, and… demonstrate state sovereignty to the Arab population more than any other settlement operation.”—Yuval Neeman
Nazareth Illit The Carpenter
Israelis don’t have what it takes. Hebrew idioms are often acutely graphic; the best way of understanding them—especially Biblical ones—is trying to visualize them. Modern idioms lack the sophistication of old ones; some of them are simply savage. One of them is perfect to illustrate the topic of this article. “We will kill a Turk and then we will take a rest” (“na’arog turki venanuach”) is a brutal way of saying “one thing at a time.”
Among other things, it preaches for inherent instability in the rhythm of work. Israelis may make an effort to establish a town or a military stronghold, but they lack what it takes to hold it even for a short eon. A few days ago we were reminded of that when IDF Soldiers deserted the Mt. Hermon stronghold.
This is true also in civilian fronts; on January 17, 2013, the mayor of Nazareth Illit made a dramatic announcement, forbidding Arabic pupils to study in their hometown, in late recognition that Israel is losing its main stronghold in the Galilee.
Jewish (un)Settlement in Nazareth
The mayor of Nazareth Illit is Shimon Gapso; those with a good memory may remember the scandal he created in December 2010. “The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is provocative,” Mayor Gapso told AFP. This was the first sign that something was wrong in his fiefdom.
At the beginning of 2012, I analyzed Israeli ethnic enclaves in Israel: End of a Dream. “Arim Meoravot” is Hebrew for “Mixed Cities,” cities where Palestinians and Jews live together; Haifa, Jerusalem, Lod, and Ramle are examples of these.
Yet, this term is just wishful thinking. On the neighborhood level, people live in ethnic enclaves. One will find Bedouin, Druze, Circassian, Palestinian, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Iraqi, Iranian, Moroccan, and a thousand more ethnic neighborhoods. People seldom mix. The State of Israel encourages that; “Divide and Conquer” is its favored tactic. However, in Nazareth this strategy backfired.
Mayor Shimon Gapso—Nazareth Illit
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
Greater Nazareth—the urban area including Nazareth and Nazareth Illit—enters this category. Nazareth, with over 80,000 inhabitants, is the largest city and capital of Israel’s Northern District; it is also known as “the Arab capital of Israel,” since most of its denizens are Palestinians. In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus. Nowadays, the Basilica of the Annunciation is the main church in the city.
“Nazareth Illit” means “Upper Nazareth;” it is the archetypal Zionist stronghold watching over ancestral towns. The first parcels of lands used for the construction of the settlement were illegitimately expropriated from Palestinians. Protests at this action reached the Supreme Court of Israel, which in 1955 accepted (HCJ 30/55) the government’s word that the sole purpose of the land was to erect government facilities.
Yet, its first neighborhood was completed in September 1956; Jewish settlers moved in immediately afterwards. The settlement was referred to as the “Jewish neighborhood” of Nazareth, then as Kiryat Natzeret (“Town of Nazareth” in Hebrew). The name Nazareth Illit was adopted in 1958. In 1960, the part within the municipal boundaries of Nazareth was excised from Nazareth.
The following year, Nazareth Illit was endowed with the municipal status of local council; in 1974, it was recognized as a city. In 2007, its population peaked just above forty thousand, since then the population declined until the Palestinians began moving in. In 2007, 90% of the population was Jewish, now the situation is changing rapidly.
An old 4-room house in Nazareth was sold in January 2012 for 700,000 NIS (roughly $200,000) while in Nazareth Illit, a 3-room house fetched merely 200,000 NIS. Moreover, all sellers in Nazareth Illit are Jewish. All buyers are Palestinians. Specifically, the Palestinians moving from Nazareth to Nazareth Illit are Christians; they were responsible for the horrible crime of placing Christmas trees. The vandals! On the other hand, many of the people living in town and categorized as Jews, are in fact Christian Russians.
Nazareth | Church of the Annunciation
“A, B, … Christian”
On January 7, 2013, Palestinian denizens of Nazareth Illit delivered a letter to the mayor through Ashraf Elias, a lawyer of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. In the letter, they requested an Arabic school for their 1,900 sons and daughters, mentioning that 20% of the 52,000 people living in the town speak Arabic.
Their children are forced to travel every day to Nazareth, where Arabic schools abound. However, since they do not reside in the city, they must attend private institutions, which are more expensive.
Mr. Gapso brutal answer arrived shortly afterwards. “As long as I am mayor,” he said, “there would be no Arabic schools, Muslim cemeteries or mosques in Nazareth Illit.” Somehow, he confused the religious identity of the parents, but after all they are just “goyim.” “Nazareth Illit was founded to make the Galilee Jewish,” he added.
“Let’s kill a Turk and then take a rest,” Israel said in the 1950s. “Let’s kill Nazareth and then take a rest,” they meant. When they woke up from the subsequent powerful nap, they discovered that 20% of Nazareth Illit was already Palestinian. School or not, Mayor Gaspo was right, “as long as I am mayor” he said, admitting that soon he may be replaced by a Palestinian Christian mayor.
Mr. Tov Roy is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.