As you may have heard, during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) violent clashes between Jews and Arabs erupted in the northern city of Acco. An Arab driver drove through a Jewish neighborhood during the holiday, offending the local population and igniting riots and backlashes. The driver claims he was driving his family back home, only passing through the Jewish part of town. Other eyewitnesses claim he drove wildly, risking all the children who had been playing out on the road, while listening to loud music in his car.
Whichever version hits closer to the truth doesn’t matter now. He was being highly provocative in his actions, and the anger in well understood. Nevertheless, it’s saddening how the actions of one individual can sweep whole populations into conflict.
As a result of these riots, the mayor of Acco, Mr. Shimon Lankri, decided on Friday to cancel the upcoming “Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater“, which takes place during Succot each year. This annual festival has proven itself to attract a large amount of visitors, and is considered to be one of Israel’s best fringe theater festivals.
I was looking forward to visiting the Acco Festival myself this year, and am very disappointed that it was canceled in the last moment. Many artists and politicians alike have been urging the mayor of Acco in the past few days to call off the cancellation, and use the festival as a way to calm down the tensions.
Is canceling this year’s festival the right thing to do? Well, personally, I can understand the mayor’s agenda. He says he cannot guarantee the visitors’ well-being while the racial tensions are running high, and I can certainly agree with this argument. Moreover, even though he did not express it explicitly, I believe that the cancellation is a sort of punishment for both sides. The festival is one of the city’s most successful cash-cows, and postponing it has an immediate effect on many of the residents. It’s as if Mr. Lankri warns his residents, “If you can’t get along, you’ll only be hurting your own livelihood. So next time think twice before you turn this town into a war zone!” And frankly, he’s got a point. Sometimes people need incentives to play nicely together, and this sort of move also puts the pressure on community leaders to be mature and responsible, instead of hot-tempered and provoking.
On the other hand, perhaps resuming everyday life as fast as possible is the best remedy in order to put behind this “incident”. Perhaps the mere act of announcing cancellation has been enough of a warning, and now it’s time to announce the festival is back on track. After all, it’s well known that tourism equals peace.