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Cablegate: Israeli Arab Town of Shefa' Amr Rolls Out The

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



SUBJECT: Israeli Arab Town of Shefa' amr Rolls out the
Welcome Mat for Tel Aviv Visa Unit Employees

1. Summary. In an effort to enhance the decision-
making process for visa adjudicators interviewing
applicants from Israel's minority Arab communities, Tel
Aviv's Visa Unit recently organized a professional day
trip to the Israeli Arab town of Shefa'amr. Twenty-
four Foreign Service Officers, Consular Associates and
Locally Engaged Staff participated in the high level
visit, arranged by a local businessman and educational
activist. A senior lecturer from Tel Aviv University
delivered a background lecture on Israeli-Arab issues
prior to the visit. Not only did the day succeed in
breaking down negative stereotypes and building human
bridges, but it also gave first-hand context for
making visa decisions for an applicant pool that
represents one of the more marginalized segments of
Israel's multi-ethnic society. End Summary.

2. As a scene-setter leading up to the visit to
Shefa'amr, the consular section invited a J-1 visa
recipient and research scholar, Professor Eliezer
Rekhess, Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv
University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and
African Studies, to give a lecture. Dr. Rekhess,
Director of the Program on Arab Politics in Israel,
specializes in the political history of the Arabs in
Israel, the Islamic resurgence in Israel and
Palestinian affairs. Not only did he increase the
staff's interest in participating in the professional
day but he also enhanced their knowledge by providing
basic demographic information and a broad socio-
economic context.

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3. The Arabic name of the town, Shefa'amr, means "the
spring of Omar," and refers to the sweet spring water
that supplies the city. Its Hebrew name, Shefa'am that
means the "trumpeting of the people," harkens to the
period two thousand years ago when the Jewish religious
court known as the Sanhedrin left Jerusalem and settled
nearby. The fact that the town has two names
epitomizes its complicated history as an Arab village
in a Jewish state. Its current inhabitants are all
Arabs whose religious composition is 55% Muslim, some
of whom are Bedouin; 30% Christian and 15% Druze.

4. On the day of the visit, renowned Arab hospitality
was on full display when Non-Immigrant and Immigrant
visa staff members arrived at the Israeli-Arab town of
Shefa'amr, a municipality of 35,000 inhabitants,
nestled into the hills northeast of Haifa. Our guide
and host, the local owner of a coffee and spice-
processing factory that employs some 40 workers, Mr.
Samer Nachly, arranged a cross-sectarian visit that
included a recently constructed mosque, a hundred year
old church, a Druze meeting hall and, even the town's
abandoned synagogue, whose Muslim caretaker prides
himself for ensuring that the building's infrastructure
endures. The town's Jewish inhabitants left the mixed
town for Haifa in the early 1920's to work in the
refinery and chemical factories.

5. Concrete results of grass-roots activism can be
found in an elementary school building that is being
constructed with private funds. We learned that the
Government of Israel (GOI) provides infrastructure and
tuition funds for the town's government schools but,
for private education, covers only 65% of the tuition.
A group of Christian parents, whose children attended a
church-funded school, have raised monies for a new
building after a wall of the old school collapsed one
night...thankfully sparing their children any injuries.
While new proposals of the controversial Dovrat
Commission would increase GOI funding of private
schools to the same 100% received by public schools,
these parents prefer to retain control of their
curriculum, methodology, and unique minority
environment, so our host believes they will reject the

6. During the visit, Consular staff also met the
following people: the town's mayor; the Arab deputy
director of Internal Medicine at Haifa's Rambam Medical
Center; a pantomime artist who is the director of the
country's first pantomime group from an Israeli Arab
town; the director of the country's first and only
Ministry of Education sanctioned Arab conservatory;
local educators, women and university students.

7. Among the issues discussed during the day were the
financial and social problems that Israel's Christian
citizens face as a minority within a minority. While
some young Israeli Christian Arabs hope that performing
voluntary military service might mean better job
opportunities and integration, older members of the
community voice great skepticism based on the tenuous
socio-economic status of the country's Druze and
Bedouin -- communities that must serve in the military.

8. Comment: On solely economic grounds, it is
difficult for Israeli-Arab applicants to overcome the
presumption of intending immigrant status due to their
marginalization in Israeli society. As a result of
this professional day visit to the vibrant town of
Shefa'amr, consular officers now have a broader, deeper
perspective on the close social and family ties within
Arab communities which may supplement economic
conditions as compelling reasons for applicants to
return from travel to the U.S. and more illustrative
social context within which to make visa adjudications.
End Comment.

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