The Galilee village of Abu Sanan became an unlikely host to a campaign event held by the haredi Shas party on Wednesday night.
Shas leader Aryeh Deri insisted during the event that he "feels at home here," and called for a joint Jewish-Arab fight for equality.
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"You will have someone to turn to, and our respect," he promised the hall, packed with Muslims, Christians, Bedouins and Druze.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who was in attendance as well, said that "Inshallah, God willing, we will have our victory party right here."
About 1,000 local authority heads, activists, sheikhs and other guests arrived at the conference. MK David Azoulai, chairman of the party's minority affairs division, was pleased. According to him, in the last elections Shas had the vote of 8,000 Druze, Christians and Bedouins. This time, he believes, this number will be doubled.
One sure vote comes from Muhammad Taha of the Manda village, who has been faithfully voting for Shas for the past 20 years. "Some 500 votes in the village are already guaranteed," he declared with confidence. "This time I promise a surprise for Shas."
Najib Sarkhan of Marar village attended the conference to pay his respects to Minister Yishai. Sarkhan's son, Yias, died in the Carmel Disaster. "I've never supported any party," he admitted, "but after the disaster Yishai stood by me and embraced me. When we first met, tears welled up in his eyes and I could feel his compassion."
Najib Moadi, 77, a religious minister from the Yarka village, is another Shas supporter. In his distant past, like all his family, he was a supporter of the historical Mapai party, the precursor to today's Labor party. But since then he had the opportunity to serve as Yishai's assistant, a role he takes pride in. "God willing, this time we will double the number of Shas voters in the village," he said.
But the support is not unanimous. Ali Hazimi, head of the Abu Sanan council and chairman of the Druze and Circassians Forum, has been voting for Maki (The Israeli Communist Party) all his life and is not about to change his mind now. "I wish there will be equality," he hoped, and promptly added: "But there's equality only in cemeteries."
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