Israeli President Visits Arab City

Washington, Feb. 21- Israeli President Shimon Peres has visited the northern city of Nazareth where he met with Arab schoolchildren, spoke with residents, and witnessed the economic strides the largely Arab city has made recently.

"Israel must ensure full equality for all children so that you may fulfill all of your dreams. There must be full equality between Jews and Arabs that starts with education and continues with equal economic and work opportunities," Peres told a group of Arab fifth-graders, to whom he read an Arab folktale during his visit Monday.

Christians know Nazareth as the childhood home of Jesus, and the city is a center for pilgrims. Today, the city is also known as "the Arab capital of Israel."

Although it is largely working class and has struggled economically, the city recently inaugurated the New Generation Technology (NGT) incubator that already has helped grow 20 start-ups in various stages of development.

"We've succeeded in providing Arab entrepreneurs with a platform to turn their ideas into businesses and it's become known throughout the Israeli-Arab sector that such an opportunity exists. I think that's been our biggest accomplishment," Nizar Mishael, the chief financial officer of NGT since 2006, was quoted as saying in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ newsletter in 2011.

Peres urged the schoolchildren to “excel and continue to dream,” calling them an “inseparable part of Israeli society.”

The President also held a meeting with group of citizens after touring the city, where Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy briefed Peres on the city’s high-tech and tourism development plans. The president has long been a prominent advocate for integrating the Arab-Israeli population into Israel’s burgeoning high-tech sector.

Mayor Jaraisy thanked Peres for this visit and said, "In all of his public functions, the President has worked for equality for the Arab sector. I am certain that this visit will bear positive fruit for Nazareth in short and long terms."

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