And an Israeli couple had a powerful message of support.
A wave of deadly confrontations in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has put Israelis and Palestinians on edge.
Already this month, seven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and other attacks by Palestinians. And over 30 Palestinians, including suspects in the attacks and protesters in the West Bank and Gaza, have been killed by Israeli security forces during the same period.
The violence has fanned the flames of fear and prejudice. But Ziyad Abul Hawa, a Palestinian man living in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, responded to the bitter atmosphere with the most powerful weapon of all — ridicule.
Abul Hawa, 27, walked into his apartment building on Monday to find a neighbor had posted an anonymous notice in the hallway.
« In light of the security situation, » it read in Hebrew, « I think that we cannot afford to let ourselves be indifferent and do nothing about the fact that we have an Arab tenant in the building. » The notice included Abul Hawa’s name and apartment number.
« I don’t preclude his presence right away, but I do think it’s very important that we know him and vet him, » the notice continued. « It is our right to look after ourselves and our families and to want to feel safe in the building in which we are living. »
It then announces a meeting to be held later in the week to discuss the issue.
When Abul Hawa saw the notice, he snapped a selfie in front of it and posted the picture on Facebook with the message: « I’m coming and I’ll bring muffins! »
His photo hit a nerve. It went viral on social media and was covered by Israeli media outlets, including The Times of Israel newspaper.
« I’ve got hundreds of messages from all over the county, and also abroad, full of love and support, » Abul Hawa, who was born in Spain and works as a data manager and statistician at an insurance agency, told The WorldPost in a Facebook message.
Some neighbors brought him cakes and cookies. Another posted a new notice in the building.
« In light of the security situation, I think we cannot afford to let ourselves be indifferent to xenophobia and fear, » it reads, in Hebrew. « I invite you to a revolution of joy — because we are all family. »
Abul Hawa also posted the second notice on his Facebook page.
Abul Hawa has also received some racist comments, which he has subjected to mockery on his Facebook wall.
« Generally that’s the way I try to react about almost everything in life, especially with stuff like this and especially in times like this, » he said. « There’s enough hatred and blood in the streets now, I definitely don’t want to pour gasoline on the fire. »
Among the thousands who responded to Abul Hawa’s post were Israeli activists Eléonore Bronstein and Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, founders of a research and art laboratory for social change called De-Colonizer.
They took a picture with a message for Abul Hawa: « We would love to be your neighbors. »
« As activists and human beings, as people for whom anti-fascism is a strong part of our identity, we felt really offended by what happened to Ziyad, » Bronstein told The WorldPost via Facebook.
After they posted the photo, they were flooded with message of support.
« There were many comments of friends saying they would also like to be Ziyad’s neighbor, » Bronstein said. « And then friends of friends. And friends of friends of friends. »
The couple’s post deeply moved Abul Hawa. « It was so nice and touching of them, and I don’t even know them, » he said.
They found out they all live near each other, and share a few mutual friends. The couple invited Abul Hawa to their home for coffee.
« The story of Ziyad is a good illustration of the climate of suspicion, hatred and racism, we are facing now, » Bronstein said. « Simple acts of ‘living together,’ like posting single photo or eating humus in one of the Palestinian places in Jaffa, have become radical acts. »
The Israeli government has deployed troops to the cities and authorized police to seal off Palestinian neighborhoods. Israeli leaders have called on citizens to arm themselves and take down suspected attackers, raising fears that Israel’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens, often referred to as Arab-Israelis, and other Palestinians residents will be the target of deadly vigilantism.
Abul Hawa has no plans to move out anytime soon, and in fact just signed a new lease for his apartment. He said he doesn’t know who posted the original notice warning of his presence in the building, but also that he doesn’t really care.
« I got so much love and support because of her, so the joke is on her, » he said.
Daniel Marans helped with Hebrew translation.