For the most part, Jewish society and Arab society exist alongside one another without any real encounter as equals. The inequality between Jews and Arabs is manifest not just in terms of how material resources are allocated by the government, but also in the asymmetry in majority-minority relations: The minority knows the language, culture, heritage and traditions of the majority, but the Jewish majority knows almost nothing of the Arab minority.
To address this challenge, Sikkuy has been working for the last ten years to develop tourism infrastructure in Arab towns throughout Israel, along with shared regional tourism programming that connects neighboring Jewish and Arab towns. Tourism has the potential to be a positive drive for change in relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel – allowing in-depth, meaningful, unmediated encounter, reducing mutual fear and alienation, and forging a new space of mutual recognition and equality. The tourism we believe in is one that builds on the inclusion of fascinating people, on cooperative endeavor, tourism that gives hosts and visitors heart-to-heart contact and breaks through barriers, tourism that introduces people to unfamiliar histories and cultures, to novel local traditions and cuisines. Tourism that comes from the heart and enters into the heart.
Nearly ten years ago, we at Sikkuy connected with Jewish and Arab tourism professionals in four regions around the country, seeking to catalyze joint tourism development for Arab towns in cooperation with Jewish towns. We partnered with Green Tapestry in Wadi Ara, Way to the Sea in the southern Triangle area, and tour operators in Nazareth, Shefa-‘Amr (Shfar’am), Sakhnin and Deir Hanna. Together, we worked to develop tourism infrastructure in Arab localities and shared regions, develop programing and plan tourist experiences for groups and individuals interested in visiting Arab communities and getting to know Arab society.
Today these efforts have yielded eight Arab towns across the country as destinations where tours are conducted for the general public and for groups from Israel and abroad. The tours are led by local guides; visitors meet with religious leaders, public figures, and local entrepreneurs, visiting along the way the historical and cultural assets in the communities. “Shared Paths” is the joint platform of the shared regional tourism project. Producing and marketing tours and special events including the wildly successful “Ramadan Nights,” Christmas tours, and programs featuring a special focus that incorporates cultural, historical, culinary or other themes.
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