Last week municipal elections were held in most cities and towns all over Israel. There were several pieces in the newspaper about the fact that in the Arab towns, voting patterns had returned to being very strongly clan-based.
In the few days after the elections, we were aware of a constant racket of car horns and firecrackers across the valley in Sha'ab, all day and all night. We often hear these detonations at wedding feasts; in an earlier time, it was customary to fire pistols as a joyful noise, but since the police frown on this expression of happiness, many villagers have made the transition to civilian firecrackers and rockets. When there is a particularly extravagant wedding, we are treated not only to lots of loud noise, but to impressive displays of colorful fireworks as well. In any case, this time there was no wedding.
Today I was driving through the moshav and noticed Z. smoothing a newly cemented driveway. Z. is a master welder/metalworker from Sha'ab who happily takes on other jobs in general handiwork like cement, tile, and roofing, even though his skills in those areas are rather amateurish. In any case, he has done many small home improvement projects for his neighbors at Shorashim, and is a familiar face around the moshav. I, however, hadn't seen him for a long time, and stopped to catch up. He is fine, thank you, getting by, etc. When I asked him about all the fireworks in the village, here is what he said:
"Yeah, we were celebrating. The whole village is excited. The incumbent won by a lot -- you know I'm related to him -- and the Faurs thought that they were going to take it back. Just today there was a judgment in court -- they tried to contest the results, but they lost in court. So now you'll be hearing even more fireworks than before -- we'll be celebrating for a few more days yet. At one point people got heated up, quarreling between the two factions, and some of them used the fireworks as weapons, aiming them at people. I took two hits on my car and it was scary, and one guy got hit in the shoulder. Those rockets are powerful. And expensive! You know how much money they are burning up on those things?! But it will be OK. We'll calm down.
"Do you ever get to the village these days? Oh, you work with H., the principal of the middle school? Great guy. Quiet, professional, modest, doing a wonderful job. You know, they tried to get rid of him too. Declared his job open this year, and he had to compete with alternative candidates even after he had been in the position for a year, and successful at it. But they didn't succeed. What do they think this is, Saudi Arabia? Well, it isn't, it's a democracy. They want to control the city council, and mayor, the principals of all the schools, the jobs in the municipality. It's too much. They've gone too far. If they want a monarchy, let them go to Saudi Arabia. Not here."
Sha'ab, a Moslem village of about 5,000 inhabitants, began to hold democratic elections for city council in the mid-70's. The first mayor, Afu Faur, was the head of the largest extended family (clan, hamula) in town, the Faurs. He was re-elected every four years until 1999, when the city council split, and the two leading mayoral contenders agreed on a "rotation" agreement, whereby each of them would serve for half the term. Now, it seems that Afu Faur has been decisively defeated. The end of the machine, or just an exchange of machines?