Hebron’s Jewish community, European parliamentarians accept invitation from sheikh with vision of 1 state for all.
Sheikh Farid al-Jabari of Hebron grew up on stories of close ties between Arabs and Jews.
In keeping with that tradition, he hosted an unusual gathering of Palestinians, settlers and conservative European parliamentarians on Thursday afternoon in his large tent, set back from the road in the South Hebron Hills.
In the heat, flies buzzed over plates of grapes, peaches and plums laid out on silver trays on the red oriental carpets that adorned the tent’s floor.
“I come from a generation that lived with the Jews peacefully in a brotherly relationship,” Jabari, 64, said, as he looked out at his visitors.
He wore a white robe and a white keffiyeh. At times during the two-hour meeting, he held prayer beads in his hands as people spoke. At other moments, he smoked.
Among those who sat to his right were representatives of Hebron’s Jewish community – Noam Arnon and David Wilder. They sat, like all the guests, on red cushions set up on the floor.
To Jabari’s left were Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika and spokesman David Haivri. Austrian parliamentarian David Lasar and Belgian parliamentarian Filip Dewinter were also there. Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev was briefly present.
Mesika first meet Jabari in Brussels at a conference on the sidelines of the European Parliament about Middle East peace.
Mesika noted that it was symbolic to be part of a meeting in a tent with Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the same place where Abraham had lived.
“Only a wise leader like Sheikh Jabari could bring together the sons of our father Abraham,” he said.
But Arnon and Jabari have been meeting for close to four years. Arnon said that just before Rosh Hashana, Jabari had prevented Palestinians and anarchists from destroying the Hazon David synagogue, a small outpost on the edge of Hebron.
“Since then there have been warm ties between us and we meet regularly,” he said.
He has brought many other people to meet with him as well.
Arnon added that he views Jabari as a brave man and a friend.
Wilder, who also has recently started to visit Jabari, said he was surprised when Jabari called him right before Shavuot to wish him a happy holiday.
Arnon said that both he and Jabari oppose a Palestinian state.
Jabari is not a Zionist, said Arnon. He is advancing his own Muslim ideas. “But,” he added, “they come together in some ways with our ideas.”
Jabari recalled a meeting he held in his home in 2008 with Hebron settlers. “We spoke honestly.
We put everything on the table. What are our requirements and needs,” he said.
After that, he said, “people [Palestinians] turned against me.”
However, their resistance did not deter him.
“This is a small ball that keeps rolling,” he said. “I hope we made progress in changing the way of thinking for some people who did not have anything to do with the peace process.”
Jabari added: “The Israeli nation is ready for peace. The Palestinians want peace.
“I just hope that we can lift this occupation…We would like to feel our dignity and freedom.”
Jabari later explained to The Jerusalem Post that his vision for the future was not two states, but one democratic state for all of its citizens in which Jews and Palestinians lived as equals.
Although he has never been to the United States, he imagines a state like it in Israel and the Palestinian territories with a similar type of democracy.
“There won’t be two states,” he said, as he looked out at the surrounding hills through an open flap in the tent. It is not possible, because Islam does not allow its followers to relinquish land, he said.
“In our religion, Tel Aviv is like Hebron,” he said. The land belongs to God and the entire Muslim world, he said.
“I cannot sign away something that is not mine,” he said. But he can live together with Jews in one state, in which Palestinian rights and Jewish rights are preserved.
He said that if in the US, the son of a student from Kenya can become president, then in this region Jews and Palestinians can live together as equals in one country.
“This will happen,” Jabari said.
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