Education Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Arab city of Tamra in the Western Galilee on Tuesday morning under heavy security. This was Bennett’s first visit to an Arab community since he took over his new post, and some local residents objected to the visit.
Nonetheless, Bennett received a very warm welcome in Tamra and held a meeting with local officials in the mayor’s office, even though some local residents held a protest outside. The head of the city’s education department, Muhammad Shamma, said before the visit that the city considered it to be a professional meeting on educational matters, not a political one. Shamma said local officials would present him a long list of educational matters related to the city’s educational system, and that it was important for Bennett to see the budgeting and infrastructure issues up close.
Even though most of the city’s residents ignored the visit, a protest was held by a few dozen locals.
Police said the decision to bring in large numbers of officers was made in light of fears of a larger political protest by those who opposed the visit by the head of the right-wing religious Habayit Hayehudi. Residents said they did not remember any ministerial visit with such heavy security. Northern District police explained the decision was made in coordination with the Shin Bet security service’s Protective Security Department, which is responsible for guarding senior public officials. The intention was to allow the visit to take place in an orderly fashion, while still allowing residents to protest, said the police. The security arrangements made when ministers visit Arab communities are made on an individual basis, with no across the board rules, said the police spokesman.
Bennett said he would take care to provide “the best and equal education to all Israeli students – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians – without any exceptions.”
One protester, Yusuf Diab, said demonstrators opposed the city’s welcome of “a politician without any restraints who is proud of killing Arabs during his military service, and is leading a policy of racism against Arabs and Palestinians. … If the city wants to hold work meetings, they can go to his office” instead of holding them in Tamra, said Diab.