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March 24, 2005 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-03-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

World

Making Inroads

Israeli police chief wins confidence of Bedouin.

NECHEMIA MEYERS

Special to the Jewish News

Rehovot

W

hen I came into the spartan
office of Superintendent Yoni
Zeitak, police commander in
the Bedouin town of Rahat, he was busy
trying to defuse a clan squabble involv-
ing a woman who had married without
obtaining her father's permission and
was, therefore, in danger of falling vic-
tim to an "honor killing."
In the room were a sheikh and a social
worker who had turned to Zeitak not
only because there was a threat of vio-
lence, but also, and more importantly,
because they trust him. Their attitude is
shared by most citizens of Rahat who,
when dealing with "the authorities,"
routinely ask Zeitak for guidance, which
he and his staff; eight of them Bedouin ,
themselves, try to provide.
Solving social problems isn't the rea-
son for a police presence in Rahat, one
of the communities set up by the gov-

ernment in the 50s to urbanize and
modernize the Negev Bedouin. Before
the station was established two years
ago, there was an atmosphere of law-
lessness in the town. That has been
curbed to the benefit of its residents,
who now enjoy a more tranquil envi-
ronment and host many Jewish shop-
pers who previously were afraid to
enter Rahat.
Shoppers, however, won't solve the
town's economic problems or those of
other Bedouin communities in the
area, many of them Third World
slums. Indeed, it is hard to see
what will.
According to some demographers, the
Bedouin have the highest birthrate in
the world, which accounts for the fact
that 60 percent of Rabat's population is
under the age of 18. The government is
helping with housing; a project to pro-
vide 10,000 new dwelling places in the
town was recently inaugurated by Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon. Jobs, however, are
a much bigger problem, and unem-

ployed young men are apt to take up
crime as an alternative occupation.
Indeed, some are involved in drug traf-
ficking and property offenses, as well as
participating in inter-clan clashes. All
these necessitate periodic police inter-
vention, sometimes with large forces.
The crime problem helps explain
why the Rahat police have to spend so
much time dealing with the com-
plaints of the nearby middle-class
community of Lehavim, which is suf-
fering from a wave of thefts, particu-
larly of cars. Disposing of them is no
problem, as the Green Line is only a
15-minute drive away.
Lehavim doesn't seriously affect the
demographic balance in the area for
which the Rahat station is responsible;
90 percent of the people in it are
Bedouin, and that percentage can
only grow.
When I myself lived in the Negev 50
years ago, I seldom saw Bedouin, who
numbered about 12,000. Now there are
almost four times that number in the
Rahat district alone and nearly 150,000
in the Negev as a whole.
This is something over which Yoni
Zeitak has no control. All he can do is
try to help solve the problems of the
people in his area, Jews and Bedouin
alike, and thus make it easier for them
to live together in relative harmony. ❑

Israel Insiffht

THE ISSUE

The most evident change in the
Palestinian Authority since Yasser
Arafat's death is the new leadership,
fronted by Mahmoud Abbas. Israel
has made several evident changes in
response.

BEHIND THE ISSUE

Taking the difficulties of Palestinian
living into consideration, Israel has
re-routed the security fence, opened
the commercial trade passages
between Israeli and the Palestinian
Authority controlled areas, removed
some roadblocks, ended the prac-
tice of house demolition and is
planning a withdrawal from Gaza
and the northern West Bank. Israel
has also released over 100 prisoners,
and allowed terrorists who were
banished to Europe to return to the
West Bank.

— Allan Gale, Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit

Book Series Concludes

Left: Community cleanup day was
intended to strengthen relations
between the police and residents of
Rabat. This shot shows Rahat young-
sters who have brought trees to plant
at the police station. Zeitak is in the
middle of the first row.

!tangos In The Police

oni Zeitak,
son of
American
immigrants, has two
friends with a similar
background also in
the police force. He
himself is hoping to
recruit more. There
are, of course, Jews in U.S. law
enforcement agencies, but in Israel,

such a career choice is apparently
more attractive than in the States,
despite the arduous work and long
hours that it entails.
For Zeitak, it has also brought
opportunities to travel, though not
always to places which he would have
chosen had it been up to him. He
and several other local lawmen were
sent to Haiti in 1994 to participate
in an international peacekeeping

Yoni Zeitak is the son of former
Detroiters Gloria and Ancel
Zeitakit, who live in Kiryat
Ekron, south of Tel Aviv. His
sister and brother-in-law are
Faye and Ed Menzer of
Farmington Hills. His aunt,
Irene Mathis, lives in
Bloomfield Hills.

"We Israelis, " he recalls, "turned
out to be well suited for the job. It
was constantly necessary to impro-
vise, and even though we are not as
well organized aszwe might be, we
are well versed in the art of improv-
station."

"Let's Talk About It: Jewish
Literature," sponsored by Temple
Beth El, the Baldwin Public Library
and the Birmingham/Bloomfield Race
Relations and Diversity Task Force,
will conclude Wednesday, April 6.
The 7 p.m. discussion at the
Baldwin Library will center on Allegra
Goodman's book Kaaterskill Falls, a
novel exploring how the lives of an
Orthodox and secular community
interweave in this upstate New York
village during the summer of 1976.
Facilitating the discussion will be
Rose Pudaloff, associate professor of
English and director of graduate stud-
ies at Wayne State University in
Detroit.
The free program is a presentation
of Nextbook and the American
Library Association. Copies of the
book are available at both libraries.
For information, call Eileen Polk,
(248) 851-1100.

3/24
2005

29

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