Jonathan Cook reports:
The Zakai and Tarabin families should be a picture of happy coexistence across the ethnic divide, a model for others to emulate in Israel.
But Natalie and Weisman Zakai say the past three years – since the Jewish couple offered to rent their home to Bedouin friends, Ahmed and Khalas Tarabin – have been a living hell.
“I have always loved Israel,” said Mrs Zakai, 43. “But to see the depth of the racism of our neighbours has made me question why we live in this country.”
Three of the couple’s six dogs have been mysteriously poisoned; Mrs Zakai’s car has been sprayed with the words ”Arab lover” and the windows smashed; her three children in school are regularly taunted and bullied by other pupils; and a collection of vintage cars in the family’s yard has been set on fire in what police say was an arson attack.
To add to these indignities, the Zakais have spent three years and thousands of dollars battling through the courts against the elected officials of their community of Nevatim, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, who have said they are determined to keep the Tarabins from moving in.
Last week the Zakais’ legal struggle looked like it had run out of steam. The supreme court told the two families the Tarabins should submit to a vetting committee of local officials to assess their suitability – a requirement that has never been made before by the Negev community in the case of a family seeking to rent a home.
“The decision of the committee is a foregone conclusion,” Mr Tarabin said.
Chances for Jews and Arabs to live together – outside of a handful of cities – are all but impossible because Israel’s rural communities are strictly segregated, said Alaa Mahajneh, a lawyer representing the Zakais.