Umm al-Fahm invites Jews ahead of rightist rally
Before internal security minister announces whether march organized by extreme rightists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir will be allowed to take place next week, Arab city opens gates to Jewish supporters for Muslim holiday in display of harmonious ties, hopes of preventing rally
Umm al-Fahm law enforcement bodies have begun preparations for the rightists' rally that will be held in the Arab city by extreme right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel next Monday.
On Thursday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter is expected to decide whether or not the rally would be permitted to take place on the scheduled date.
Meanwhile, residents of the city have been trying to demonstrate that Jewish-Arab relations don't always have to be bad.
Residents reported that the municipality has been flooded with dozens of calls from Jewish supporters asking what they can do to come visit and help, and some even promised to prevent Marzel and Ben-Gvir from entering the city.
Among the callers were members of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, who, in cooperation with the municipality, plan to hold tourist events in the city this weekend for visitors coming to show their support.
"The Umm al-Fahm municipality opens its homes and hearts to anyone wishing to come and visit us on this holiday," said Mayor Shiekh Khaled Hamdan, refereeing to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Sources from the city said that while the final decision regarding the rally has not yet been made, the city was open to supporters all year long.
"For ten years we have been cooperating with other authorities in the area to uphold a shared fabric of life, and this rally they wish to hold here will only spoil the atmosphere, as opposed to the many heartwarming calls we've gotten," said Muhammad Rabah, who is in charge of coordinating the weekend's visits.
'Don't let handful of extremists ruin harmony'On Friday and Saturday visitors will receive a warm welcome at the entrance to Umm al-Fahm, where stands will be posted to direct tourists to the various sites.
Minibuses and tour guides will also be at the visitors' disposal, and the city's restaurants and contemporary arts gallery will be open.
"The rightists' hostility rally has hit a very basic never in us that has sparked the urgent feeling that we have to defend the Israeli citizenship, people fear the rally endangers the essence of Israeli citizenship," said Sikkuy's Co-Director Shuli Dichter.
"We expect thousands of visitors to arrive in the city over the weekend and find out that Umm al-Fahm, contrary to what the rally's organizers are trying to depict, is not forbidden or closed to Jews," he added.
Meanwhile, a number of groups including Meretz, the Kibbutz Movement, Peace Now, and the Megiddo and Menashe regional councils have called for the cancellation of the rightist rally in the city.
Chairman of the forum of regional heads in Wadi Ara Ilan Sade said, "The rightists' rally is dynamite that could drag the region and the whole country into violent clashes. We must not allow a handful of extremists to ruin the harmony we have in the region."