All over the country the situation is tense. In Israel, sirens can be heard from southern Israel to Nahariya. But, even when the rockets are landing all around, Shatil, NIF’s capacity building and advocacy arm, is continuing its important work. Here is an interview with Sultan Abu Abaid, head of the Shatil branch in Beer Sheva, on how the staff are managing to do their work while under fire.
Can you tell me about your work during this time?
As always, SHATIL continues to deal with issues of shared society and social justice. An extra issue now is the protection and defense of the Bedouin. Most of the Bedouin villages are in open areas which are not covered by the Iron Dome, and don’t have protection or shelter at home. We are trying to create media interest in this issue, and to solve the problem by lobbying the government.
We are also helping organisations to recruit volunteers for different activities. For example, we’ve been helping the organizsers of the camp for children with cancer at Soroka Hospital find volunteers. There are both Jewish and Arab children there – cancer doesn’t discriminate between blood and blood…
In addition, we are dealing with the issue of recognition for the unrecognized villages in the Negev, and with the establishment of the Negev Council, which will work on behalf of the entire region. Today we heard that NIF and the Nes Foundation will support the project.
Are you succeeding in establishing joint Jewish-Arab projects during this time?
“Definitely. We are always trying to set up joint Jewish-Arab projects. We were just in touch with Mauricio Belter, the rabbi of the Eshel Avraham community in Beer Sheva, regarding a meal for Jews and Arabs to break the fast on Tuesday (Ramadan and 17th Tevet). There was also contact with Kibbutz Shoval – hate graffiti had been written at the entrance. They want to do a join event with Rahat in order to lessen the tension – we are helping with the initiative.
How are the staff doing?
The people who work here live in the south. Some live in the western Negev and are under fire all the time. Some are from Kibbutz Orim, some from Sderot, and others are under fire in Ashkelon. We are trying to maintain regular life and to work as much as possible on our projects.
Is there more tension between Jews and Arabs at the moment?
Among the people SHATIL works with, there’s a feeling that people want to do things together, and to advance joint projects. For example, we have a network of people who want to work together for calm. Last Thursday we met with members of the network, and issued a call for shared society proposals.
To finish, do you have a personal message for people from the area and Israeli citizens?
Yes: I am praying that this round will finish in peace and more people won’t be harmed. As citizens of the State of Israel, we have to work for a diplomatic solution – without it we will be in danger internally and externally. Peace is everyone’s ideal and we need to advance it and pressure the government to reach an agreement with the Palestinian people. When it happens, it will be good for everyone.