Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to School

Having no children of my own, I have overlooked one aspect of the war: how it affected and is still affecting the kids of the North. After an unusual summer vacation, which will surely be remembered for the war, children in Israel returned to school on Sunday. In a Ha'aretz article titled "Shrapnel in the school yard," Vered Lee documents the first day back at an elementary school in Kiryat Yam, a Haifa suburb.


Anonymous said...

The Israeli Home Front Command, who are in place to ensure citizens' safety during times of war, have mostly neglected Israel's Palestinian Arab population. The vast majority of Arab towns suffer from a lack of bomb shelters and safe enclosed spaces. Palestinian Arab citizens of these towns have also complained that the Home Front Command has often not sounded off warning sirens when Katyusha rockets are about to hit. Arab towns and villages that have been affected by Hezbollah fire include Kfar Yasif, Abu Sinan, Julis, Majd al-Krum, al-Buqei'a, Tarsheeha, al-Ramyah neighbourhood in Karmiel and Deir al-Asad. Even the town of Nazareth, where the HRA is based, was hit by Katyusha fire that resulted in the deaths of two Arab Palestinian children on July 19. No warning sirens went off before the rockets struck. Also, Nazareth is not equipped with bomb shelters, and due to poor infrastructure it was extremely difficult for ambulances to arrive promptly on the scene.
The lack of provisions and security measures for Arab towns and villages by the Israeli authorities, especially in such severe circumstances (war), should be considered one of the most striking examples of the State's neglect of the Palestinian Arab minority. It highlights how racial discrimination feeds the disproportionate allocation of bomb shelters and siren warnings between Arab and Jewish towns. These are clear violations of the Arab citizens' right to a secure life during time of war.
In addition, Arab youth from the region are currently not in school and summer camps have also been cancelled. While summer camps are being organised for Jewish communities in bomb shelters or are being shifted to locations deemed safe, like Tel Aviv, there exist no such opportunities for Arab youth.
In the town of al-Rumyah, which is located in the centre of the Jewish town of Karmiel, there live eight families in homes made of zinc and asbestos. As the municipality of Karmiel continues in its efforts to expel al-Rumyah's residents, the current war has only increased the threat to the residents' lives. Al-Rumyah lacks shelters, has been openly neglected during the war by the Karmiel municipality, and has even been ignored during food distributions following rocket attacks. It is not hard to imagine the short and long term psychosocial trauma that such conditions cause Arab children of this village and other similarly affected communities in the north.

John said...

As usual, Israel is to blame everything. The fact that most Arab towns do not have bomb shelters has a lot to do with their municipal councils and local governments. It is not up to the Home Front Command to build bomb shelters. They have to be built by the municipalities. Arab municipalities have traditionally failed to allocate resources to these kinds of expenses, because they were not seen as essential.
Sometimes people have to take responsibility for themselves, too!

Many Jewish neighbourhoods in towns in the north and many small Jewish municipalities also lacked adequate bomb shelters or had neglected them. Many people, including Carmia, also lived in buildings that lacked a sheltered room and were frankly unsafe during the war. Is the Home Front Command to blame??

The fact is that neither the Home Front Command nor the Arab residents of many villages in the north believed that they would be targeted by Hizbullah. They were caught unprepared. Many people also did not take the attacks seriously at first - some, but not all, of the casualties could have been avoided if people had stayed in their homes.

From your message, it seems like the Israeli state is nevertheless to blame for everything. That is wrong. Arab municipalities, like a number of Jewish municipalities in the north, were unequipped and incapable of dealing with the crisis. Some local leaders also displayed a lack of leadership and responsibility. At the same time, a number of Arab AND Jewish municipalities probably did not get the help that they needed (witness the outbursts directed at Olmert by local Jewish politicians when he visited the north).

This is not a story of neglect of Arab towns and villages. The lack of preparedness affected all Israelis. Poor people and poor communities, whether Arab or Jewish, were generally more affected than those who are better off (or had relatives in other parts of Israel).

The fact that Nazareth has poor infrastructure or that people in al-Rumya live in substandard housing is another story. But I'm sure Israel is to blame for that one as well.

Amos said...

This is so conspiratorial: "The Home Front Command has often not sounded off warning sirens when Katyusha rockets are about to hit [Arab towns]." Do you really think that only happened in Arab towns and villages? For crying out loud, even in Haifa the sirens didn't always go off. I experienced this myself. The katyusha volley that hit the train depot and killed 8 people came without a warning.