Hani Awed, a Muslim Arab, is a surprising temporary resident of Ofra settlement in the West Bank. ‘Even with my Arabic accident I don’t feel like an outsider,’ says Awed, who is in Ofra as part of the ‘My Israeli Brother’ project.

Whoever took part Bnei Akiva activities in Ofra settlement in the northern West Bank last week would have been rewarded with an extraordinary sight: Hani Awed, a Muslim Arab from Mazra’a village in the north, guiding the children in the town.

Awed, 19, came to live in Ofra for a month along with several other teenagers as part of the “My Israeli Brother” project. The aim of the project is to familiarize Israel’s different social sectors with one another, by sending groups of youngsters to go and live in different communities from the ones they are used to.

Hani Awed and Aharon Lipkin take a walk through Ofra. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Hani Awed and Aharon Lipkin take a walk through Ofra. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


Over the course of the month the youngsters are integrated into the community, going to their houses for Shabbat, joining in with their daily routines and getting to know their way of life from the inside.

“I love taking trips so I decided to join the project,” says Awed. “At the start I didn’t understand why everyone was going around with weapons. It’s probably because they’re afraid of Arabs.

“My family members were supportive, saying only that I should be careful. We tend to think that settlers are crazy,” Awed laughs. “But I feel good here, and safe.”

With an ongoing wave of terror that is producing near-daily attacks, Ofra’s residents had significant misgivings about taking Awed into the settlement. “It’s not a regular occurrence. We had meetings on the subject because it’s a sensitive period right now,” says Aharon Lipkin, who is hosting Awed in his house.

“One of the main reservations was about how we were going to explain to the residents that there would be an Arab staying here for a month, but we immediately accepted it and we think that it’s going well,” Lipkin says.

“I heard about the project from an uncle in the village,” says Awed. “People from the project came to us and explained what it would involve. I didn’t believe that I would come to a settlement but the moment I arrived here I wasn’t afraid.

“Even when I walk around here in the community with my Arabic accent I don’t feel like an outsider,” Awed continues.

Lipkin adds: “I know it’s a little strange, especially these days, but we speak Arabic and Hani fits in here. It’s important to me that my children will see this and learn from it.”

Yaron Kaner, the manager of the center that runs the project, says that the warm welcome Ofra’s residents have given Awed has greatly moved the members of the group. “I discovered an open and tolerant community that sees recognizing the other as a genuine and important challenge,” Kaner says.

As reported by Ynetnews