Israel Update - October 2018 TwitterFacebook
Abu Rahmoun Campaign pic Research-Publications TAFI
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EEOC 10th Anniversary Conference Features Employment Advances and Barriers

EEOC 10th Anniversary
Israel’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) marked its 10th anniversary this year with a conference in June that convened employers from the public and private sectors, municipal leaders, and research experts to explore advances and barriers in integrating under-represented groups into the Israeli workforce. The EEOC presented findings from its 2017 Diversity Index, showing that Israel’s Arab citizens, including those with advanced degrees, are still paid far less than their Jewish counterparts and are not proportionally represented in high-skill professions. Proposed solutions were discussed, and it was noted that Arabs are coming forward more to file discrimination complaints with the EEOC. The EEOC is headed by Adv. Mariam Kabha, the National Commissioner for Equal Employment Opportunities and the highest-ranking Arab woman in Israel’s government.


Polygamy Committee Recommendations

Polygamy Comittee RecommendationsAn estimated 20 percent of Bedouin families in Israel are polygamous, although polygamy has been illegal in Israel since 1977, with wide-ranging social, legal and economic consequences. In 2017, Government Resolution 2345 (Hebrew) established an Inter-Ministerial Committee to study and make recommendations for appropriately addressing polygamy in Bedouin society. This July, the committee presented its main recommendations (Hebrew), which include changes to government policy, legislation and enforcement; initiatives to enhance education and employment; and improving health and welfare services and awareness of them among the Bedouin population. The recommendations received mixed responses from Bedouin women’s groups who welcome enforcement but are suspicious that the government aims to control Bedouin birthrates, and were criticized by right-wing Jewish organizations as too lenient to effect substantial change.


President Rivlin Ushers End to Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Yerushalayim Acrimony

President Rivlin hosts Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Yerushalayim Soccer ClubsFans of the Beitar Yerushalayim and Bnei Sakhnin soccer clubs will once again attend matches together, following a special event hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his residence on September 20. Prior to January 2016, clashes occurred between fans when the teams played each other. Beitar Yerushalayem has a vocal fan group, La Familia, that has been vehement in its opposition to Arab players and is renowned for anti-Arab chants during matches. Bnei Sakhnin is a joint Arab-Jewish soccer club based in an Arab city. During the meeting, the new Beitar Yerushalayim owner, Moshe Hogeg, and Bnei Sakhnin Chair, Muhammed Abu Younes, announced an agreement to end the rule enacted by the Israel Soccer Association in January 2016 that only fans of the host team could attend games between the two clubs. In a September 24 match, fans from both sides attended with no incident and the agreement was kept successfully (Beitar won, 3-2). In a show of solidarity, each team entered the field with boys wearing their opponent’s uniforms and Beitar created a video espousing tolerance for all.



Third Arab Woman MK Sworn in Under Rotation Agreement

Abu RahmounOn October 15, Neveen Abu Rahmoun (Balad) was sworn in to the Knesset as a member of the Joint List (the coalition comprised of three Arab and one Jewish-Arab parties), ending a year-long internal dispute over the list's rotation agreement. Her inauguration made history as the first time three Arab women MKs are in the Knesset at the same time, and for bringing the number of women MKs to 35, an all-time high. Rahmoun spoke about her commitment to children, the poor in her community, villages and towns suffering from neglect and discrimination and her commitment to continue the fight against the Nation-State Law and towards "a state of all its citizens … where no one person has rights over another, and no one's life is more valuable that the other." (Hebrew) Abu Rahmoun previously worked as a civic studies teacher in high school.


Protests of Nation-State Law Return to Knesset with Winter Session

knessetProtest of the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People (passed on the last day of the summer session) resumed with the opening of the Knesset’s winter session on October 15. The Joint List’s Balad party issued a statement announcing all four of its MKs will boycott the first month of the winter session to protest the Nation-State Law and Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union), formally submitted his resignation the following day. Druze protestors gathered outside the Knesset, calling for the law to be amended. Druze MK Saleh Saad (Zionist Union) called for support of the protest, saying the law “harms equality, minorities and contradicts the Declaration of Independence.” The Druze community has been divided those demanding the complete revocation of the law and those waiting for an economic development package offered by the Prime Minister as a reinforcment of Druze special status. On Oct 22, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation put this proposal on hold for four months, raising renewed concerns from Druze lawmakers and activists.

Proposed "Loyalty in Culture" Amendment Advances

Arab-Jewish TheaterAn amendment to the existing Culture and Arts Law (“Loyalty in Culture” bill) is a step closer to a reading in the Knesset after it was approved on October 21 by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The amendment, proposed by Minister of Culture Miri Regev, permits state funding to be withheld from arts entities that the Ministry of Culture determines has: denied the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; incited racism, violence and terrorism; supported armed struggle or terrorism; marked Independence Day as a day of mourning; or vandalized or dishonored the Israeli flag or other state symbols. The bill has been criticized by artists, arts organizations and Jewish and Arab public officials for its potential to curtail freedom of expression. A petition and letter (Hebrew) signed by hundreds of artists and intellectuals argues: "no government should be allowed to utilize public budgets to prevent the legitimate presence, within the public sphere, of diverse opinions and views that are uncomfortable to the ruling government..." Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), reversed his opposition to the bill in September and, after several amendments, Attorney General Mendelblit also removed reservations over freedom of expression. According to Ministers Kahlon and Regev, “Israel has freedom of cultural expression, but there is no freedom to harm the values and symbols of the state.” This issue has been a point of contention between Minister Regev and arts organizations for years with Jewish-Arab organizations such as the theater pictured above often in the cross-hairs of the controversy.



Arab Women Run for Local Office in Large Numbers

Nazareth Women Conference More Arab women than ever before are presenting their candidacy in the 2018 municipal elections taking place October 30. Moreover, more are running either at the head or in high places on local party lists. For the first time, all-women lists have been presented and a number of notable women are running for mayor or council head positions.  A number of civil society organizations have been working on empowering, preparing and accompanying Arab women towards candidacy in the local elections, including The Abraham Initiatives, Arab Women in the Center (NAM), Women Against Violence (WAVO) and a coalition of Jewish and Arab organizations called "Mekomiot2018.” In October, a conference in Nazareth convened women candidates and activists to share messages of empowerment and discuss effecting changes within their communities and in Israel at large.


Negative Campaigns in Mixed Cities

Negative Campaigns A number of local parties in "mixed cities"- cities with a substantial Arab minority – have campaigned on divisions between Jewish and Arab citizens, as well as others. Likud posters in Tel Aviv proclaimed, “It’s Us or Them,” the election campaign in Afula includes debate around whether the city is "becoming mixed" or "should remain Jewish," signs in Nazareth Illit called for a “Jewish Nazareth," and Jewish Home party posters in Ramle warned that Jews could be converting to Islam. Strong condemnations came from politicians, organizations and the public, including publication of counter-campaigns championing diversity, prompting removal of many of the negative ads.


Reducing Violence in Local Elections

Viloence-Free Petition Elections CampaignMunicipal elections frequently spark violent episodes in Arab villages where family rivalries and venting of anger can find expression under the cover of campaiging. In early October, The Abraham Initiatives and the Council of Arab Mayors launched a formal campaign in Arab society towards "violence-free local elections," stating this is especially needed in light of the previous elections in 2013 that "ended with tragic results with dozens of wounded and the loss of lives." The campaign includes a charter for "violence-free elections" that is being circulated and signed by local politicians, candidates and leaders, as well as a series of Arabic-language videos of youngsters, activists and children speaking against violence and in favor of fair elections. In other cases, local leaders are taking action against the violence. In Tu'ran, writes Samah Salaime, the local women's council organized a first-of-its-kind women's march, convening hundreds of women from rvial candidates' families in public protest of the violence.


Controversy Over High-Profile Intermarriage

Lucy Aharish and Tsahi HaleviNews about the wedding of well-known i24 News anchor Lucy Aharish—an Arab citizen of Israel—to Tzahi Halevi, a Jewish actor from the acclaimed TV series Fauda, renewed intense discourse over intermarriage in Israel. The announcement drew heated and critical comments from public officials, most notably from MK Oren Hazan (Likud) who wrote on Facebook that 'Lucy Aharish [seduced] the soul of a Jewish man in order to hurt our state and prevent more Jewish offspring from continuing the Jewish lineage." Opposition MKs Shelly Yehimovitch (Zionist Camp) and MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) condemned these statements. MK Yair Lapid, (Yesh Atid Chair) made comments against assimilation while denouncing negative statements about the wedding. The issue was discussed heavily in public discourse and drew statements from civil society organizations like The Abraham Fund Initiatives about need to "allow individuals to choose a spouse regardless of their religion or national background."



Taub Center Graph

Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel | Welfare Nonprofits in Israel: A Comprehensive Overview

A new study by the Taub Center in cooperation with the Center for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy at the Hebrew University aims to fill a gap in data about social welfare nonprofits in Israel. Findings show that at a time when the role of these organizations is growing in importance, only a disproportionately small number (7 percent) serve Arab society, and those lack many of the resources used by organizations serving other sectors. "The dearth of organizations active in Arab Israeli society, and the sector’s limited share of the resources available to civil society organizations, limit Arab Israeli citizens’ access to social services to an even greater degree, despite the sector’s many existing needs," the report states.


JFN greenbook

Jewish Funders Network | Art as a Driver for Social Change in Israel

In March 2018, the JFN published a greenbook—a philanthropic guide—on the role of the arts as a driver of social change in Israel. The guide incorporates in-depth discussion and a mapping (see p110-118 on "The Northern Way") of arts organizations working to advance Jewish-Arab relations and social change within Israel's Arab society as an integral part of exploring how and why strategic investments in the arts can strengthen Israeli society today.



Myers-JDC-Brookdale | The Program to Promote Economic Growth and Development for the Bedouin Population in the Negev

IN 2012, the government launched GR-3708, the first of two five-year economic development plans for Negev Bedouin. The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute published a final evaluation (Hebrew) of this plan in October 2018, detailing programs and progress through 2016 in employment, infrastructure, education, personal security, community leadership, social services and other target areas. An infographic report provides a high-level summary of the needs, achievements, challenges and future directions for economic development efforts in Israel's Negev Bedouin society.


Elsevier | Does Teaching on the "Other" Side Create a Change - Wurud Jayusi and Zvi Bekerman, October 2018. (This study examines the experiences of Arab teachers working in secular, Jewish Hebrew-speaking schools in Israel.)

Sikkuy | From Barriers to Opportunities: The Study of Arabic in Jewish Schools | Executive Summary -Michal Belikoff, Gili Re'i and Ya'ala Mazor, July 2018. (Full report in Hebrew)

INSS | The Arab Society in Israel and the Nation State Law - Doron Matza, Meir Elran, Khader Sawaed, and Ephraim Lavie, August 2018.

Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute | The Shortage of Arab Professionals in Mental-Health Services — Causes and Solutions | Executive Summary - Irit Elroy, Hadar Samuel and Tamar Medina-Artom, May 2018. (Full report in Hebrew)


Arab Employment Achievements Presented at 2018 Collective Impact Conference

Arab Employment Achievements Presented at 2018 Collective Impact Conference

Directors of several leading Israeli companies personally submitted “progress reports” on their integration of Arab employees to President Reuven Rivlin as part of the third annual Collective Impact Employers Conference. Held in the Bedouin town of Kuseife, the conference marked three years of cooperation between the Collective Impact Partnership for Arab Employment and President Rivlin's Israeli Hope for Employment initiative, which are working together to achieve a breakthrough in Arab representation within Israel's core business sector.


Athena Fund Ipads for Teachers

Athena Fund - IPads for Bedouin Special Education Teachers

The Athena Fund has provided more than 400 teachers in the Bedouin community with iPads. This is part of Athena Fund's program called “Empowering Teachers for Special Education” which, in addition to computers, provides special education teachers with 120 hours of training in the use of technology. The iPads were distributed in Rahat, Hura, Neve Midbar Regional Council and Bir al-Maqsur, as a result of collaboration between the Athena Fund and several partners: the Israel Teachers Union's Professional Advancement Fund, Bank Massad, Israel’s Ministry of Education, philanthropic donors, and Bedouin local authorities.

Lod Community Foundation Mobile Library

Lod Community Foundation Inaugurates a Tri-Lingual Mobile Library

A mobile library with thousands of books in Arabic, Hebrew and English was launched by the Lod Community Foundation this summer to encourage literacy and enhance accessibility to literature for Jewish and Arab children throughout the city. The Mobile Library also offers workshops, children’s plays, and story time activities, and is parked in a different neighborhood each day of the week. The project was established in partnership with Bank Hapoalim, Mifal Hapaiys (Israeli Lottery Association), community organizations, and the Lod Municipality.

Beit Berl College

Beit Berl College Opens First Prep Film Program for Arab students

HaMidrasha – The Faculty of Arts at Beit Berl College has opened its first Preparatory Film Program for Arab Students. The 10-week program trains exceptional young men and women from Jat, Kfar Bara, and the Golan Heights in film studies, with two weeks dedicated to learning Hebrew and English. Upon completion, the students will be eligible to take the entrance exam for HaMidrasha’s film department. Today, only a handful of Arab students study at the 10 film schools in Israel, in part because none of  the Arab high schools in Israel offer a matriculation track in film and cinema studies. The program is currently recruiting a second cohort to begin with the 2018-19 academic year.


Unistream Brings Young Jewish and Arab Entrepreneurs for a Summer Hackathon

In August, Jewish and Arab teenagers from all over Israel participating in Unistream's "Tomorrow's Leaders" program gathered at eBay Israel’s headquarters to work and compete in a 24-hour intensive Business Hackathon. The event included workshops led by industry leaders, brainteasers designed to spark creative solutions, and teamwork across cultural divides. Mixed Arab and Jewish groups competed together to solve complex problems relating to business and entrepreneurship. The next morning, eBay employees served as judges for the pitches and ventures. For example, a group from Akko designed a "bracelet addressing the problem of pedestrian death by motor vehicle." While still in the development phase, the bracelet is designed to alert pedestrians when vehicles are approaching.

Arabic Booklet Informs Students of Services and Rights

Arabic Booklet Informs Students of Services and Rights

The Abraham Initiatives and the Israeli National Students' Union published an Arabic booklet for college and university students. The bookletinforms the growing number of Arab students in Israel about services provided by universities and colleges to enhance access for Arab students; available scholarships and how to apply for them; rights regarding classes and exams that fall on Muslim, Druze and Christian holidays; rights related to free speech on campus; basic academic terminology; and sexual harassment, among other issues. According to TAFI, there are approximately 48,000 Arab higher education students this academic year with around 10,000 in year one.       

A New Dawn

New Dawn in the Negev Music Program Graduation

A New Dawn in the Negev, a Bedouin organization working in Rahat, graduated the fourth cohort of its Sarab ("Oasis") Strings for Change music program. The program has been providing music education in elementary schools in Rahat since 2015, prior to which no such program existed. Graduating were 180 students in 1st through 4th grades from two schools in Rahat. After completing the program, children are encouraged to continue their musical education at the Music Conservatory in Be’er Sheva, which is a partner in the program.

Sikkuy Video Campaign

Sikkuy Launches Campaign for Arabic Signs at Ben Gurion Airport

In September, Sikkuy began advocating for Arabic signs and announcements at Ben Gurion Airport, where signage is in Hebrew and English. Sikkuy stated (Hebrew): "The airport is a stressful and confusing place for everyone, but for those not having Hebrew as a mother tongue – it is especially confusing…But beyond that: in this time of extremism and exclusion and the attempt to undermine Arabic language through the Nation-State Law, the presence of Arabic as a normal and natural part of the public space is of special importance." The campaign included a video (Hebrew and Arabic) that shows an Arab girl and her grandfather looking for Arabic signs at the airport and received wide media coverage.


Genesis logo

Several groups working to advance Arab women in Israeli society were among the 37 organizations sharing this year’s Genesis Prize, all focused on closing gender gaps in Israel. The Prize was awarded in September 2018. “Grants cover all geographies, all social strata, and all ethnic and religious groups in Israel, including Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze and Bedouin,” said Sana Britavsky, CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation. Prize recipients that work with Arab citizens include AJEEC-NISPED, JDC-TEVET, Itach-Maaki, WePower, Mahapach-Taghir, Jasmine, Desert Embroidery, MATI, and Women and Their Bodies.

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