After a stormy meeting of the Haifa city council on Tuesday, May 4, Hadash activist Shahira Shalabi has become the first ever Arab-Palestinian woman to serve as a deputy mayor in Israel. Haifa’s mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, supported the election of Shalabi as her deputy.
In the November 2018 Haifa municipal elections, the Arab-Jewish list of Hadash was led by journalist Raja Za’atry, head of media for the Arab High Follow-up Committee. Shalabi, a social worker and feminist activist and Dr. Ornat Turin, a lecturer, researcher and activist in the Teachers’ Union, won two seats in the Local Council for Hadash.
The coalition agreement between Hadash and Mayor Kalisch-Rotem stipulated that Shalabi would be appointed Deputy Mayor during the second half of the term. In the agreement, both sides committed “to act to reinforce coexistence in Haifa, based on full equality in all spheres of life, mutual respect and tolerance, and respect for freedom of expression…to repelling any racist discourse and to condemning any element that advocates racism against any group of residents, without distinction of nationality, religion, race, color or gender, and including against Arab residents.”
According the new Deputy Mayor of Haifa, the municipal leadership’s role is to ensure that the mixed Jewish-Arab city is shared and managed by all its residents. Shalabi said that, in parallel to ensuring equal and appropriate services, there is also a need to “recognize institutional power structures in the city and the different narratives that represent and drive the Jewish and the Arab communities,” to confront deeper issues and controversies that accompany everyday positive interactions and neighborly relations.