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Galilee neighbors reconsider ties following murder of soldier (JERUSALEM POST) By DANIEL BEN-TAL 07/30/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1059540778094
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Death notices for murdered soldier Cpl. Oleg Shaikhet, 20, were on the entrance to the Upper Nazareth shopping mall yesterday.
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"He was one of my clients and studied in school with my youngest son," sighed Ricardo Krasner, proprietor of the Ricochet camping shop in the mall. "Like many local soldiers, he would buy equipment for his army service. He was always polite.
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"Oleg came from one of those quiet, positive families that came from the former Soviet Union. They are good people."
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As the town mourns the death of one of its sons, its residents ponder the future of once-close relations with their Arab neighbors.
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"The atmosphere of the past has disappeared," Krasner said. "I often used to ´wipe a hummus´ or smoke a nargileh with local Arabs, and I attended many of their weddings. All that has gone. Now it´s rare that you even see Jews and Arabs sitting together in a caf ."
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Argentinean-born Krasner, 55, who has lived in the town for 32 years, has a pistol attached to his belt.
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"I used to be a left-winger who voted Meretz," he said. "But since the intifada began I´ve moved to the opposite side. It was like the Arabs kicked me in the [groin]....
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"Life here has become similar to that in Ariel [in Samaria]. The only difference is that we have more self-confidence. The local Arabs know their place."
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There were no Arab shoppers in the mall on the day of Shaikhet´s funeral, while a handful of glum-faced Jewish shoppers reflected the atmosphere throughout the town.
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"There are some hot-headed people in town," Krasner said.
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Established in 1956 as a separate Jewish neighborhood overlooking the largest Arab town in the Galilee, Upper Nazareth now numbers more than 40,000 Jewish residents. The population of Nazareth is about 70,000.
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Much of Upper Nazareth´s populace - which has doubled in the past decade - comprises immigrants from various countries.
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"It took months to restore normal daily interactions after two Arabs were killed just down the road from here in October 2000," Krasner said. "We have reciprocal relations that usually express themselves in trade. About 50 percent of my customers are Arabs....
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"But it´s not what it used to be. We used to look at each other at eye-level. They still come here, but we´re scared to enter Arab areas. There´s so much crime and drug abuse that even Moslems are scared to enter the alleys around Nazareth´s marketplace after dark."
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In Kafr Kanna, a 10-minute drive away, life began its return to normal after the search operation reached its grim conclusion.
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The village of 17,000 Moslem and Christian Arabs, and Beduin, was besieged by police and border guards for almost a week after Shaikhet was kidnapped after hitching a ride from nearby Beit Rimon junction.
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His body was discovered in an olive grove between Kafr Kanna and nearby Mash´had village on Monday by volunteer Beduin trackers from Beit Zarzir.
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Kafr Kanna is the second-largest center of the radical northern faction of the fundamentalist Islamic Movement, and home to Sheikh Kamal Khatib, the faction´s deputy head.
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According to Kafr Kanna Mayor Awada Majahad, many of the villagers volunteered to help in the search, during which police, soldiers, and volunteers scoured the surrounding hillsides.
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"The village is in shock," said Taha Taha, 47, as he filled out a lottery form in a half-empty cafe. "I don´t believe anyone from this village could have been responsible for this terrible act. We´re peaceful people who believe in coexistence."
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"The villagers are being unfairly accused of disloyalty to the state," said a 28-year-old man. "We´re just like you - regular people who want to live their lives, but the authorities don´t let us build new homes or create jobs.
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"Arabs are second-class citizens in Israel. A 65-%year-old man from the village disappeared last year, but I don´t recall police making an effort to look for him."
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The villagers complained of undue police harassment during the search operation.
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"The atmosphere in the village is unpleasant," Taha said. "People have been arbitrarily stopped in the street or rounded up for questioning by the police. My 16-year-old son is scared of the soldiers. He wouldn´t go out in the house all week for fear....
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"We have all taken a step back these past three years. The October riots were caused by a bunch of hotheaded kids, and we´re all suffering as a result," Taha said. (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 07/30/03)
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