Upper Nazareth, a city of some 50,000 people in northern Israel, is a pretty mixed city by Israeli standards. Initially a “Jewish” city, the close proximity to the heavily overcrowded Arab city of Nazareth has some 18 percent of the city’s population ethnically Arab, either Christians or Muslims.
That’s fine, according to Mayor Shimon Gafsou, at least to a point. Gafsou insists that “everyone can live here, that is the law,” but also rules out ever allowing the Arabs to build mosques or churches, or even have a Christmas tree.
“95 percent of Jewish mayors think the same thing. They’re just afraid to say so out loud,” Gafsou claims, and he went on to punctuate his position by declaring “I would rather cut off my right arm than build an Arab school.”
Still and all, that’s 18 percent of the population, and a population that at least nominally has equal rights inside Israel. That’s going to make it tough for Gafsou to keep his segregationist philosophy in place, especially with that percentage growing all the time. The minorities have to be content sending their children to the next city over to attend school, for now.
Gafsou’s position is politically tenable for now, and a lot of Israeli politicians run on a policy of overt discrimination against Arabs, but in a city where Jews and Arabs live side by side contentedly, the policy must seem ridiculously old-fashioned to the younger residents, and seems doomed in the long run.