|Nazareth Illit. Forever Jewish? Photo: Hagai Aharon|
|Mayor Shimon Gapso Photo: Hagai Aharon|
Mayor's missed opportunity
Op-ed: Instead of education for coexistence, Nazareth Illit mayor chose racist election slogan
Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso is seeking reelection. The person heading a local authority is responsible not only for the removal of garbage from the streets and the commercial and real estate development of the city, but also for education. The mayor is not only responsible for the intactness of the facilities and buildings which the children use and study in, and not only for paying the salaries with the Education Ministry.
In every authority in Israel,
the person heading it is a key figure in developing educational projects for instilling values. There are authorities focusing on values of environmental protection, nature and landscape values, and there are those which focus on excellence and achievements in school.
Gapso chose to run in the elections under the slogan, "Nazareth Illit forever Jewish." His city is adjacent to Nazareth, which in the past two decades has seen quite a few Arabs move into Gapso's city, turning it into a "mixed city" – a city inhabited by both Jews and Arabs.
So Gapso's election slogan includes a built-in conflict, as there are already Arabs living in the city, and quite a few. According to figures, they make up 20% of the city's residents. This slogan is no longer valid. It's not practical either, unless the mayor has a contingency plan to transfer the non-Jewish residents from his city, making it 100% Jewish.
This is a discussion which should rise above the argument on whether this is racism or not. Racism is ignorance and is based on fear. Lack of recognizing and knowing the other and the different and primeval fears. It is mostly fed by superficial acquaintance with the other through a narrow and ignorant point of view.
As the person responsible for education in Nazareth Illit from the age of preschool, Gapso could have led a different way. A way of a joint life based on universal humane values. He could have formed a multi-age educational program for living in coexistence. He could have learned the mistakes made in Jaffa, Ramla, Lod and Akko and try to build something different, better, more efficient, and mostly more educational. There is an opportunity here, but Gapso insists on missing it.
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