Israel Update - Winter 2018 TwitterFacebook
Police Stations Muezzin Fauda Kesher
Knesset & Legislation Public Discourse Civil Society

Government Updates

Israel's Annual Poverty Report: Poverty Decreased in Arab Society but Rates Remain High

Poverty-ReportIsrael's National Insurance Institute (Bitu'ah Le'umi) released its annual Poverty Report (Hebrew) at the end of 2017. The Report, which presents figures for 2016, shows improvements in the reduction of poverty and inequality in Israel, though Israel still has the highest poverty rates among OECD member states. Overall, poverty rates in Israel decreased from 19.1% of families in 2015 to 18.6% in 2016 – or a little more than 1.8 million people. The rate of poverty among Arab families decreased significantly – from 53.3% in 2015 to 49.4%; and both the depth of poverty (the gap between family income and the poverty line) and the severity of poverty (an aggregated index of several parameters), decreased significantly in Arab society, between 7% and 8% each.


Ministry of Labor: Hi-Tech Integration Tender Winners Announced

Kav mashve MaofIn 2015, the Government of Israel issued a 3-year tender to promote integration of Arab professional into Israel's hi-tech industry. Then, the tender was won by Tsofen and IT Works, who successfully advanced over 900 Arab professionals into the industry. In 2018, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services reissued the tender, this time in the amount of NIS 15 million, with a goal of placing 1,500 Arab professionals over three years. The tender was won by Kav Mashve, that will be responsible for training and placement in the north of Israel, and Maof that will cover the rest of the country. Despite advancements over the past decade, Arab professionals are still significantly underrepresented in Israeli high-tech, comprising only around 2% of professionals in the field.


Two New Police Stations Opened in Arab Towns

Kfar Kana InaugurationIn November 2017, PM Netanyahu, Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh inaugurated two new police stations in the Arab municipalities of Jisr A-Zarka near Caesarea and Kfar Kana near Nazareth. The new stations were met with both support and criticism in Arab society, reflecting the fraught nature of police-Arab relations in Israel in which there are as many concerns about under-policing in Arab towns as over-policing. A 2017 poll by the Abraham Fund Initiatives showed that 88% of Jisr A-Zarka residents support a new station in their village, while 83% also say they "distrust the police." The new stations are part of government resolutions to (1) add 17 new stations and recruit 1,300 Arab officers to a branch dedicated to Arab society (GR-1402), and (2) to enhance personal security in Arab towns as one of the core components of the 5-year plan for economic development of Arab society in Israel (GR-922).

Knesset and Legislation

Muezzin Bill

Two amended versions of the "Muezzin Bill", or legislation to limit the volume of the Muslim call to prayer, were presented to the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in January in preparation for their second and third readings in the Knesset. The Bill passed a preliminary reading in March 2017 and was sent for review by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Environmental Protection Minister Ze'ev Elkin. They added a requirement that police will be able to confiscate loudspeakers used by mosques breaking the law, and that there will be a minimum fine of NIS 10,000 for violations. Versions of the "Muezzin Bill" have been put forth for eight years and raise significant controversy between those who feel it is a targeted attack on Muslims in Israel or an effort to escalate tensions between Arabs and Jews versus those who view it as a noise pollution and quality of life concern. Ultra-Orthodox parties have blocked advancement of the bill before out of concern it would curtail use of the Shabbat siren. According to recent reports they are seeking exemption for the siren and working in parallel with Arab MKs to "bury" the legislation altogether.


MK Yousef Atauna Resigns in Ongoing Joint List Rotation

Joint ListIn early February, Hadash (one of the four political parties making up the Joint List) announced the resignation of MK Yousef Atauna, who has only been in the seat since October, to uphold a mid-term rotation agreement signed at the time of the Lists' formation. The terms of the agreement have been under dispute since July of 2017 due to complications resulting from the indictment and resignation of MK Basel Ghattas. While this resignation suggests further rotations will take place to fulfill the agreement according to number of seats per party (rather than the list's chronology), the final outcome is still unclear. Overall, the Joint List has drawn significant criticism from Arab society for its inability to work together to expediently resolve this issue.


Public Discourse

President Trump declaration on Jerusalem - Arab MKs Protest Vice President Pence

On December 6th, American President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and directed the State Department to begin relocation of the American embassy. For Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, the announcements were polarizing. Most Jewish political leaders support the actions. Among Arab leadership, opposition is rooted in a sense that this move sides with Israel at the expense of Palestinian national concerns. From a religious perspective, the move triggered Muslim concerns about control of Jerusalem and its holy sites. Finally, many in Arab society perceive the recognition of Jerusalem as an end to the Peace Process, which they emphasize is a shared Jewish and Arab pursuit. Demonstrations within Arab society and heated discourse led to an increased majority-minority tensions. These reignited in late January when Arab MKs protested American Vice President Mike Pence' speech and were were removed from the session. Click 'read more' for an in-depth Task Force update on the declaration.


Arabic Fauda Ads Target Underlying Fear

An ad campaign promoting the season two of the Israeli TV series "Fauda" featured black billboards throughout Israel with bold white Arabic phrases like "Prepare Yourself" and "Coming Your Way". The billboards sparked numerous complaints from Jewish residents who found them frightenin and mayors of two municipalities ordered their removal. The strong response to the ads generated heated discussion in the media and social networks over the ads' exploitation of public fears in the first place, and the fact that most Israeli Jews don't understand Arabic.


Research Publications


Taub "State of the Nation " Chapter on Arab Education and Employment

The Taub Center's 2017 "State of the Nation" report includes a chapter on "Education and Employment Among Young Arab Israelis.Findings show significant improvement in Arab educational attainments at all schooling levels, with Arab women making the most strides. However, Arab women still pursue careers in education, a saturated labor market. Among Arab men, the gap with Jews in bagrut qualification has grown despite a rise in the number of Arab men qualifying. The employment rates of Arab Israeli college graduates are high, but integration into the most in-demand professions is still not optimal."



KAS Poll on Citizenship, Identity and Political Participation: Measuring the Attitudes of the Arab Citizens in Israel

A comprehensive opinion poll conducted by in the summer of 2017 by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University assessed current priorities in Israel's Arab community. According to the poll, Arab citizens priorities today are focused on domestic issues such as violence within Arab communities, racism against Arab citizens in the Jewish community, and issues related to economy and employment. The priorities are greater than "external" issues" such as the peace process or Palestinian territories



IDI Survey: Jews and Arabs - A Limited Partnership

The Israel Democracy Institute published findings in November 2017 of a survey of the complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel exists on the state, societal and interpersonal levels. The findings shows that "definite, substantial disagreements exist between Jews and Arabs on the state level." At the same time, relations on the societal and personal levels are less tense, even postive n certain areas.


Civil Society Updates


New school year shows expansion of Jewish-Arab shared life education programs

Many Shared Life Education programs increased in number and size in recent years, including several new initiatives encompassing hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of Jewish and Arab students. The Abraham Fund Initiatives, AJEEC, Merchavim, A New Way, CET, Givat Haviva and bilingual schools are some of the organizations running and developing programs. Click 'read more' for a descriptions of programs.



Givat Haviva Knesset conference on "Roadmap to Shared Society" and national poll

Givat Haviva and the Knesset "Caucus on Shared Society" held a conference in December 2017 on the "Roadmap for a Shared Society" and findings from a related national poll. The event was attended by 15 MKs from both opposition and coalition parties. The "Roadmap" was a two-year, multi-stakeholder project "developing, deliberating and advocating for a joint vision of implementable, measurable goals for a shared society in Israel." A related poll of 500 Jewish and Arab citizens (21% Arabs and 79% Jews) examined attitudes about shared society concepts to inform the final roadmap.



Bedouin Education Conference, "The Change is Made Together" Held by Teach First Israel

In January, Teach First Israel (TFI)—which works to enhance the quality of education and promote equal opportunity for pupils in the country's socio-geographic periphery—held a conference at Ben-Gurion University's Jusidman Science Center for Youth on TFI's work with the Bedouin community in Israel. The conference brought together educators, civil society and government leaders to share knowledge about improving quality and access to education in Bedouin society.


Kesher Conference on Special-Needs Families in Arab society

Kesher– The Home for Special Families, held an unprecedented conference in Nazareth in December 2017 to raise awareness and promote discussion about families of children with special needs in Arab society. More than 500 government officials, Arab leaders, professionals, activists, people with disabilities, and families of special needs children attended to hear about research, services and discuss attitudes and trends on these issues in Arab society. Open discussion of 'special needs' is relatively new in Arab society, where in the past families often felt shamed or the need to hide their special needs children.


IDI conference: "10 years of Governmental Socio-Economic Activity in Arab Society"

The Israel Democracy Institute conference held in November 2017 examined government accomplishments, set backs and current challenges with regards to the socio-economic status of Arab society in the country over the last decade. Speakers included Supreme Court Judge (retired) Salim Joubran, IDI President Yohanan Plessner, Economic Authority Director Aiman Saif, EEOC Commissioner Adv. Mariam Kabaha and head of the Council of Arab Mayors, Mazen Ghenayem, among others.



Unistream opens new center in Segev Shalom

In November, Unistream, promoting entrepreneurship among youth in Israel's periphery, opened a new center in Segev Shalom, the second center in a Bedouin town. The center will offer afterschool programming for local Bedouin youth, including hands-on experience in creating and managing a start-up as well as a parallel social project in their community. The youth will be mentored by volunteer businessmen and receive leadership development and Hebrew and English proficiency courses.


Sindyanna Fair Trade and WAC-MAAN art sale "Bread and Roses"

A major art sale and exhibition to promote women's empowerment, "Bread and Roses" was held in Tel Aviv at the end of December 2017. More than 400 Jewish and Arab artists donated 450 pieces. 75% of all proceeds will assist in integrating Arab women into the labor market through a project called "Women and Work", aimed at benefiting 3000 women by supporting: agricultural workers from the Triangle, a new cooperative of cleaning women, and women in the field of care for the elderly.



Mahapach-Taghir Annual Seminar

Mahapach-Taghir, a joint Jewish-Arab feminist organization held its annual conference in Nazareth at the end of December. More than 150 Jewish and Arab women students, activists and community organizers participated. Each group of women works in a local program to empower and organize its own community. Conference participants had opportunities for group learning, sharing of life experiences, and to celebrate their successes.


Jasmine Annual Conference: Small Businesses Drives the Economy

Jasmine, an organization focused on women in business, held its annual conference in December. The conference, which focused on diversity and women-owned businesses, drew more than 500 women from all sectors and parts of the country, as well as representatives of leading corporations including Intel, IBM, Osem, Cisco, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Wissotzky Group, Estee Lauder. More than 40 influential women spoke, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), MK Meirav Ben Ari (Kulanu), Rojette Hinnawi and Adina Bar Shalom.


Recent Publications by and about Israeli Colleagues


Exploring the Adaptive Capacities of Shared Jewish-Arab Organizations in IsraelVoluntas – Nancy Strichman, Fathi Marshood, Dror Eytan -– October 2017


To reduce crime, the police need the trust of Arab citizens+972 Magazine – Thabet Abu Ras and Amnon Be'eri Sulitzeanu – 1.10.18

A Bedouin Entrepreneur Building Bridges in IsraelThe Jewish Week – Stewart Ain – 1.3.18

WINE TALK: Rock on Sindy and AnnaJerusalem Post Magazine – Adam Montefiore – 12.7.2017

Israel's Arab Knesset List Is Too Important to Democracy to FailHaaretz – Odeh Bisharat – 11.26.17

NGO Launches Cybersecurity Training Program for Arabs with Israeli Citizenship CTech by Calcalist Hagar Ravet 11.15.17

Meet the Arab-Jewish team that pitches coexistence in Israel - The Jewish News of Northern California Michael Kohn – 11.13.17


Recent Awards and Recognitions


The Arab Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC) was chosen by the Ministry of Education as an Excelling Organization in the Sphere of Social Involvement for the year 2017, for its shared life education programs in the Negev. According to the Youth and Society Administration at the Ministry of Education, the award was given for AJEEC's "many years of activity promoting education for partnership, shared life encounters and meaningful work that brings together people and communities".



Yediot Ahronot's "most influential social activists" of 2017 included
civil society leaders working on Arab and Jewish-Arab concerns: Samah Salaime was named one of the "ten most important social activists of the year" for her work to combat violence against Arab women. Among the "top 50 social activists" were: Nasreen Haj-Yahya of IDI, Rawnak Natour and Ron Gerlitz from Sikkuy, Adv. Insaf Abu Sharb of Itach-Ma'aki, Rasool Sa'ade of TAFI, and Watfa Kana'an from the Neurim program.



The Dror Prize for Social Change was awarded in early December 2017 to the news site 'Local Call', for "persistent coverage of the joint feminist struggle between Arab and Jewish women against gender violence." Two organizations promoting shared society between Arab and Jewish citizens received honorable mentions: The Abraham Fund Initiatives for its "Media as Shared Society" project, and "Mirkam Ezori" ("regional fabric") which connects between Jews and Bedouins in the Yeruham area.


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