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Unity March Brings Together Jews, Arabs Calling for Mutual Understanding

Hundreds participated in a unity march held in the Bedouin village of Qasr al-Sir in the Negev Desert | AJEEC, Arab-Jewish organization for social change: “The youth of the south understand that the only way to continue forward is together”

ילדים ונוער באירוע צעדת האחדות בנגב (צילום: יניב שרון)
Youth at the unity march in the Negev. (Photo: Yaniv Sharon)
By Yaniv Sharon

Even as racism and incitement to violence seems to grow more present in Israeli society, a group of Jewish and Arab children gathered last months to call for another path forward. Hundreds of youth gathered in the southern Bedouin village of Qasr al-Sir to take part in a unity march, marching under the blazing sun with signs reading “hope”, “love”, “tolerance”, “unity”, “peace”, and “mutual understanding.”

The march was organized by the Arab-Jewish Center for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Economic Development (AJEEC-NISPED), the Scouts, the society and youth department, the Neve Midbar Regional Council, and various schools from the area, with cooperation from the Ministry of Education. The march began at al-Huashla School in Qasr al-Sir toward the village boardwalk made of olive and fig wood.

Members of the Scouts hold up signs calling for unity. (Photo: Yaniv Sharon)
Members of the Scouts hold up signs calling for unity. (Photo: Yaniv Sharon)

Mika, 18, who is participating a gap year organized by AJEEC, took part in the march. “Particularly during this era of intolerance and ignorance in this country, we have an obligation to set a goal against our shortcomings, to make empathetic solidarity and listening a part of the public discourse,” she said. “Iit is difficult and challenging, but I believe that our actions throughout the course of the year as well as this march, which so many are taking part in, are a significant step toward that goal.”

After the march, participants went to a central stage in the middle of the boardwalk, where children took part in activities centered on solidarity and knowing the other. In the background, a youth choir sang “Give me your hand, we will walk together, you won’t be left alone”.

“The goal is empathy; it’s on us to ease the pain and inspire hope in one another”, said Eden, a friend of Mika and another member of the gap year cohort. Omer, another cohort member, said that what will stick with him from the march is “the feeling that it is possible, that everyone can create change where they are.”

“We didn’t stop educating against racism after Oct. 7,” said Siwar, 22, a youth coordinator in the Bedouin town of Ar’arat an-Naqab. He said that the education he takes on is for himself just as much as it is for the children.

Yazan, the director of AJEEC’s southern region, said, “There needs to be partnership and caring within our society. We need to move Bedouin and Israeli society forward together.” During the afternoon, those present sang together, “We seek peace, peace.”

Youth at the unity march in the Negev. (Photo: Yaniv Sharon)
Youth at the unity march in the Negev. (Photo: Yaniv Sharon)

Sliman Al-Amour and Ilan Amit, co-CEOs of AJEEC said in a statement: “The youth of the south understand that the only way to continue forward is together. This march centers the solidarity and brotherhood that exist in the south, despite all the difficulties, the upheavals, the incitement, and the division that come from all sides. We want to bless each participant and everyone who helped create this significant event, particularly during a time like this, and we want to bless the important partnership with the administrations and with the Ministry of Education which yields important initiatives like this.”

Neve Midbar Local Council Chair Salame Abu Adisan said, “The unity march is an exciting expression of the values of cooperation and solidarity in our community. The enthusiastic participation of the children from elementary schools across the Negev illustrates our vision for shared living and progression of understanding and mutual respect amongst all the residents of the region. We are proud to lead initiatives like this and we thank all the participants and partners for their help and for the success of the event.”

Salman Abu Arar, leader of the Scouts in the Arab sector, also applauded the march. “The unity and solidarity march is being held as a tribute to the unity and partnership between Arabs and Jews in the South against incitement and racism,” he said. “The Southern District advocates for leadership, true partnership, and living together, especially in recent times. We are the Scouts and our motto is to be prepared and to advocate for unity.”

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