Arab minority caught in middle of Gaza war
Facing the threat of rocket fire along with the rest of Israel, residents in this central Israeli Arab town have found themselves caught in the middle between Jewish neighbors and their fellow Palestinians who are dying in growing numbers in the Gaza Strip.
The people of Tira, a town of 25,000 people known for their warm relations with nearby Jewish communities, have Jewish friends, speak Hebrew fluently and are largely integrated into Israeli society. But with relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, they also empathise with the Palestinians.
That internal strain becomes especially hard during times of violence, and tensions have risen since the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants began on July 8.
"The Jews look at us like Arabs and the Arabs look at us like Jews," said Ahmad Nasser, 21. "We are in the middle."
The markets in Tira are usually packed on the weekend with Israeli shoppers. But business has slowed down to a trickle in the weeks since the conflict began, perhaps because Israeli-Arab relations have soured or simply because no one feels like going out in such times, said Mohammed Abdulchai, 52. He said the war has been bad for business, with the fear of rockets shared by everyone.