The people of Bat Yam, adjacent to Tel Aviv, are not racists, nor are they Arab haters, says Asher Vudka, one of the organizers of a protest this week that raised eyes around the country; they are just sick and tired of being pushed around in their home towns. “And this is not a Bat Yam issue,” Vodka told Israel National News. “This is a problem all around the country.”
The articulate Vudka,(a word meaning "duck" in Russian with no connection to whisky), whose family made aliya from Russia and who lives in Bat Yam with his American Oleh wife and children, was interviewed on Israeli TV as well as INN about the issues that led to the protest.
The “problem,” says Vudka, is one that nearly every Isrli is aware of, whether or not they wish to admit it to themselves and others: Call it the “over-confidence of Israel's Arab population that does what it wants, when it wants, regardless of how it affects anyone, especially Jews,” says Vudka.
Vudka is not talking about the freedom Arabs have to enter Israeli cities and towns at will, to shop and do business – which, he says, they take full advantage of and should have– but what they do with that freedom. It was for that reason, he says, that he and some friends organized a protest on Monday, which was attended by many hundreds.
“There are times when we Jewish residents – especially the girls and women – dare not show our faces in certain parts of this city, because we know we are going to be attacked or accosted by Arabs,” says Vudka. On weekends, and especially on Muslim holidays, Vodka says that Arabs, from Yafo (Jaffa) and from villages in the Triangle area and Negev, visit Bat Yam, which has invested a great deal in its tourism infrastructure in recent years – and basically “take over the town. Often they will riot, getting drunk – something they would not even consider doing in their own villages where liquor is banned by Muslim law – and fight, either among themselves or with Jews. Not too long ago, there was a major riot in a local shopping center, courtesy of drunken Arabs.”
Especially vulnerable are Jewish girls and women. “The Arabs accost them, trying to either seduce them, or in some cases forcing themselves on the girls. Some try to resist,” says Vudka, “and for their trouble they find themselves getting beaten up; we just had a case like that last week.” In other instances, Arabs will offer money and other “goodies” to girls as young as 14 and 15, trying to get them to follow them back to their villages – where they end up as virtual prisoners.” Israeli activists in organizations like Yad L'achim estimate that there are thousands of Jewish girls living in Arab villages, Vudka says. “They come from places like Bat Yam.”
Obviously, more education and action in the Jewish community is necessary in order to raise consciousness among Jews as to the dangers of getting involved in relationships with Arabs, Vudka says, “but they don't belong in our residential areas or downtown with us. The imam of Jabel Mukaber openly instructed Muslims to do whatever was necessary to capture and defile Jewish girls – as part of their war against Jews. We can't just sit by and let them drive a wedge in our communities.”
The war is being conducted not just on the streets and among Jewish girls – but in the real estate market as well. Israeli media portrayed Monday's protest as being aimed specifically at preventing Arabs from buying and renting homes in the community, and Vodka admits that this is a problem, especially in certain neighborhoods. “They come in with large amounts of money – money supplied to them by terrorist interests – and overpay, sometimes by 200 percent or 300 percent for houses, in order to push Jews out,” he says. But far worse is the virtual reign of terror imposed on Jewish residents by “visiting” Arabs, who have made life in Bat Yam hellish.
And it's not just Bat Yam. “This is a national problem, and everyone knows it. Politicians criticize and condemn, but they all know that something must be done.” That includes the mayor of Bat Yam, Shlomi Lahayani. “He, like everyone else, knows that the king has no clothes, but is deathly afraid of the media.”
Vudka and his friends, however, are not. “We had hundreds of people at a protest on Monday here in Bat Yam, but we want to expand this to other cities.” Vudka, along with some friends, organized the protest now, “because we felt the time was right, and we plan on making this into a national movement. We want to prevent Bat Yam from turning into a Yafo or Akko [near Haifa], where in some neighborhoods Jews walk the streets at their own risk. And we want to turn back the tide, and reclaim our homeland, wherever we can.”