Israel Update - December 2016 TwitterFacebook
Government, Knesset & Legislation National Conferences
Civil Society Public Discourse

Government, Knesset, and Legislation

"Muezzin Bill"

MinaretsIn late October, a controversial bill aiming to limit the use of loudspeakers by mosques broadcasting the call to prayer was put forth, raising tensions between Arab and Jewish politicians and religious leaders. Muezzin calls are broadcast five times a day starting before sunrise, as early as 4:30 in the morning. This is the fifth effort since 2011 to extend the existing law on Prevention of Nuisances to specifically ban "houses of prayer" from using loudspeakers. The bill is still pending a first reading as both softer and more punitive versions are being lobbied in response to controversy and political interests. MK Col. Motti Yogev, who introduced the bill, says "the goal of the law is to prevent people's sleep from being disturbed…We have no desire to harm the prayer of the Muslims." Opponents, including President Rivlin, Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan (Likud), Minister of Interior Aryeh Der'i, Arab MKs and leaders, among others, say making the legislation specific to houses of prayer is redundant, as existing regulations already cover "noise pollution", and that adding a new amendment amounts to "provocation" that will only cause religious tension. Ultra-Orthodox leaders were initially against the bill as it threatened the Shabbat siren as well, but then supported a version that banned loudspeakers only at night. Most recently, PM Netanyahu is reportedly returning to a tougher version of the bill, seeking higher penalties and a 24-hour ban on muezzin loudspeakers. The proposal has also sparked outrage in the larger Arab and Muslim world.


State Comptroller Report: Education for a Shared Society and
Prevention of Racism

Comptroller_reportThe State Comptroller and Ombudsman, the Hon. Judge Joseph Haim Shapira, submitted a Special Report "Education for a Shared Society and Prevention of Racism" on September 22th, 2016 to the President Reuven Rivlin. The report is based on an audit of the activities of the Ministry of Education carried out from March through August of 2015. Overall, the report finds that, though the Ministry of Education has, in various ways, acknowledged its role in promoting a democratic, free and tolerant society, it has fallen short of adequately implementing related measures. "Unfortunately, the findings of this report paint a disturbing picture regarding the minimal activities of the education system in support of the unity of Israeli society and toward eradication of the major problems of racism and xenophobia."


Transportation Ministry: 35 New Public Transportation Lines for Arab Society

busesOn September 25th, the Ministry of Transportation announced the launch of 35 new bus lines connecting Arab localities to major cities, business and employment centers, and institutions of higher education, in the north and the Negev. The new bus lines, estimated at NIS 125 million per year, represent a significant step forward in addressing the issue of limited access to public transportation in Arab localities, some of which have no public transportation infrastructure in place.


Government Report: Correcting Budgeting Distortions

budget_reportIn July, the Ministry of Finance and the Authority for Economic Development for the Arab Sector made public a 120-page report entitled "Systemic Program for Economic Integration of Arab Society by Correcting Distortions in Government Allocations" (Hebrew). This report acknowledges and details ways that government budgeting mechanisms may have resulted in disadvantages for Arab citizens, and contributed to economic gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens. This report served as the conceptual backbone for the historic, NIS 10-15 billion Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector that was approved on December 30th and is in its first year of implementation.


Major National Conferences

Israeli Hope: Higher Education

Israeli_HopeIn July 2016 President Reuven Rivlin hosted the inaugural conference Israeli Hope in the Academia, one of the pillars of his wider initiative, Israeli Hope: A New Israeli Order. Israeli Hope looks to establish cooperation between the four population sectors, or 'tribes' of Israeli society: Secular, National-religious, Arab, and Ultra-Orthodox. Israeli Hope in the Academia sees college and university campuses as the place to build shared citizenship by developing leadership, diversity, and partnership. President Rivlin outlined four goals for this pillar: enhancing access to higher education; enhancing investment in excellence; creating a better link between academia and employment, and establishing the academic campus as a sphere for interaction and collaboration between communities.

The Marker Conference on Economic Development in Arab Society

On November 28th, The Marker Magazine and Bank Leumi, in cooperation with the Ministry for Social Equality, Sikkuy, Afifi Group, Tsofen, Deloitte and Herzog, Fox and Neeman Law Firm, held a conference on economic development in Arab society. The conference covered implementation of Government Resolution 922, high tech and innovation in Arab society, the Arab business sector, as well as partnership and constructive dialogue between government and Arab society, local leaders and the private sector. Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud) underscored the need to ensure Arab society receives its " proportional share" in budgets and applauded Government Resolution 922 . Ron Gerlitz, co-director of Sikkuy encouraged use of the government's purchasing power to enhance Arab integration in the private sector. MK Ayman Odeh – Chairman of the Joint List spoke about Resolution 922 as an important precedent and stressed ensuring Arab leadership is consulted.

The Dov Lautman Conference on Education, Partnership and Democracy

The annual conference, held this year on Dec 7th, addressed pluralist, democratic and controversial discourse in the public education system; the role of local government in promoting education for democracy; the use of technology ( including an educational startup competition); and Israeli Hope in education all as parts of examining the role of the education system in sustaining and strengthening Israeli democracy. The conference included a special exhibition of photographs (sample photo on the left) taken by Jewish and Arab youth from around the country, titled "Partnership through the Camera Lens". This conference is a collaboration between the Lautman Fund, the Israeli Democracy Institute and the Open University. This year it was also held in partnership with the Calcalist magazine, the Rashi Foundation and the Municipality of Ra'anana.

Civil Society Updates


Women Wage Peace (WWP): Peace March and Vigil

Women Wage Peace, a grassroots nonpartisan movement made up of Israeli—Jewish and Arab—and Palestinian women, executed the largest women’s peace march in Israel’s history this October and is now maintaining a vigil for the duration of the Knesset’s winter session. “March of Hope” began on October 4th in Rosh Hanikra in the north and culminated in a major rally outside of the Prime Minister’s Residence on October 19th. The movement aims to place has resolved that “whether left or right-wing, religious or secular, Arab or Jewish, we want to live in a society characterized by normality, prosperity and human rights." 



Launch of "Next Door Neighbor" Jewish-Arab Initiative in the Nazareth area:

Next Door Neighbor is a Jewish-Arab initiative to build shared society in the Nazareth area and its surrounding Jewish and Arab communities, home to 100,000 Jewish and 200,000 Arab residents. It was created by created by Ghada Zoabi, founder and director of the Arabic news outlet, Bokra.net, and Peretz Gan, a farmer and social activist from the Jezreel Valley, with professional support from Givat Haviva. The initiative aims to bring together neighboring communities and schools, professionals, and elected officials, to encourage dialogue and promote cooperation on projects of mutual interest.



Social TV: 100 voices

Over the past year, Social TV, an independent media outlet promoting social change, produced "100 Voices", a project to expose Israeli Jews to the faces, voices, and experiences of Arab citizens. The majority of Israeli Jews rarely have the opportunity to interact with Arab citizens "and as a result, their opinions of Arab citizens are shaped from media reports, on security and crime." The project is a series of short interviews with 100 Arab citizens from all walks of life. They are broadcast on Social TV, Facebook, cable and satellite television. Examples with English subtitles can be seen here, here, here and here.


Dugrinet: "Citizens with No Address"

Dugrinet, an online resource and community for Jewish and Arab residents of the Galilee, launched a project to raise awareness about Bedouins living in unrecognized villages in the region. Approximately one third of the estimated 300,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live in the Galilee. Of those, most live in 15 recognized Bedouin villages created by the state over the last fifty years, while 3,000 or so live in 30 unrecognized villages, ranging in size from 20 to 200 residents. Dugrinet is working with Bimkom and the Galilee Society to map and report on these communities in to raise public awareness about their needs and circumstances.


TAFI and WePower: Trailblazing Women for Shared Society

The Abraham Fund Initiatives, in partnership with WePower, marked the end of a special course called "Trailblazing Women for Shared Society", this November. The course provided leadership and political skills to 18 Arab and Jewish women from the northern region, and built a network of Jewish and Arab women in midlevel leadership positions from the public, private, and civil sectors who want to promote shared society in Israel. Adv. Bshayer Fahum Jayusi, Co-Chair of TAFI's Board, said the course aimed "to bridge the existing gap between the message we instill in our daughters, that they can reach any goal and realize any dream, and the reality… in which the majority of senior positions ... are still composed mainly of men."


: Eshet Hayil presents achievements to government mission

In September, Be'atzmi presented the achievements of Eshet Hayil to the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Social Equality, and the Ministry of Social Welfare, which has adopted Be’atzmi’s model. Eshet Hayil (Woman of Valor), developed by JDC-TEVET in cooperation with the Israeli government, integrates mothers from traditional societies into the labor market. The program equips participants with tools and guidance, including language and computer skills. Since 2013, the program has grown from 37 groups to 70, with 2,300 women participating. Of these 1500 of the women are Arab and 55 groups are in Arab localities.


AJEEC-RAHAT-Bnei Shimon Annual Conference: Negev Health Care and Socio-Economic Development

The annual conference is a joint initiative of AJEEC-NISPED, the Bedouin City of Rahat and the Jewish B'nei Shimon Regional Council to advance shared society and Bedouin–Jewish cooperation in the Negev in economic development, education, health and social justice. This year it was held in November at the Negev Era Industrial Park under the title of “Health Care and Socio-Economic Development for all Residents of the Negev.” Civil society leaders, representatives of ministries and other government bodies, delegates from the private sector, municipal leaders and activists, along with members of the community attended. Included was the formal inauguration of the Negev Era Industrial Park.


ITC Conference: Enhancing Access to Mental Health Services in a Multicultural Society

The Israel Trauma Coalition hosted a conference in Be'er Sheva on November 23rd addressing mental health services for the Bedouin community in times of crisis. A variety of health and community experts from Jewish and the Bedouin communities in the region participated included psycho-trauma specialist Prof. Mooli Lahad, President of Mashabim Center, Dr. Sara Abu Kaf from Ben Gurion University, who specializes in mental health and trauma issues in Bedouin society, and Prof. Marwan Dweiri of Oranim College, who spoke about "Culturally sensitive psychotherapy – the Arab Case."

Dirasat book cover

Dirasat Arabic Textook: Civics: Alternative Curriculum

Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, released a new Arabic textbook, “Civics: Alternative Curriculum” to suplement civics education in the Arabic public school system. The book, supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and written by Dr. Yusri Khezarian, is a response to controversy in recent years over emphasis on an exclusively Jewish narrative and portrayal of Arab citizens in Israel's formal civics curriculum, and explores Arab citizen's identity, history, narrative, minority status and democracy.

Public Discourse

Sweep of Fires Ignites Controversy and Cooperation

More than 1700 forest and urban fires swept Israel over a week in November. According to police, nearly 30 are suspected to have been set deliberately. Police arrested 39 people both as arson suspects and for incitement to arson, approximately 10 of whom were Arab citizens. As of this writing, 29 detainees were released unconditionally, and indictments have been filed against three for arson – two minors and Ali Mahajnar, 24, who burned garbage in Umm El-Fahem. Public discourse around the fires erupted in accusations even prior to police investigation of causes. Minister of Education Naftali Bennet (Jewish Home) tweeted that "only those who do not belong on this land are capable of burning it." PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: "every fire that was the result of arson or incitement to arson is terror in every way". This and other statements were picked up by mainstream media who increasingly referred to the situation as the "Fire Intifada." Jewish and Arab politicians responded harshly to premature accusations, calling them incitement and an unjustified blame on the Arab minority as a whole. In parallel, Arab localities such as Umm El-Fahem and Baqa El Gharbiya offered shelter to some of the tens of thousands of evacuees escaping the fires, and numerous Arab citizens publicly opened their homes. In addition, there were many instances of Jewish-Arab solidarity on the ground as Jewish and Arab communities worked to combat the fire together.


Joint List MKs Abstain from Peres' Funeral: Controversy and Boycott

Peres FuneralAfter the death of President Shimon Peres, significant controversy arose around Joint List MKs for abstaining from the funeral nor making statements of condolences honoring the late leader. The day prior to the funeral, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh told Army Radio that the party had not issued an official statement of condolence and was choosing to remain silent "out of respect." On Twitter, Odeh wrote in Hebrew that "Peres' memory in the Arab community is different from the narrative that has been spoken about over the past few days" and that he "understand[s] that it is difficult to hear such complicated messages in the moments after his death." Both the abstention from the funeral and Odeh's statements drew widespread criticism from across Israeli society, left and right, Arab and Jewish, garnering calls of hypocrisy from some in the Arab community. In the Knesset, Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman stirred additional controversy by initiating a boycott of Joint List MKs' opening speeches by the ruling coalition which was supported by PM Netanyahu.


Women Protest in Lod Against Gender Violence in Arab Society

The murder of Dua'a Abu Sharkh, an Arab mother of four, reignited anger within Arab society about violence against women, the use of the concept of family honor to justify it, and about inadequate police response due to poor police-Arab relations in Israel. Hundreds of Arab women and some men protested in the streets of the mixed city of Lod in the days following the killing, culminating after a week in a 1000-strong march. Arab women have made up 38% of the of the 104 Israeli women reported murdered since 2011—well above the 21% that Arab citizens' make up of the entire population. Since, at least two more murders of Arab women have taken place. Most of Arab women murders remain unsolved.


60th Anniversary of the Kfar Qasim Massacre

The 60th anniversary of the Kfar Qasim massacre was commemorated widely in Arab society on October 29th, 2016 with week-long events in the city, and a major conference by the municipality and the Israeli Democracy Institute. The massacre took place in 1956 when Israel Border Police (Magav) shot and killed Arab civilians returning from work for breaking a curfew, imposed earlier in the day on the eve of the Sinai war, of which they were unaware. In total 48 people died—19 men, 6 women and 23 children aged 8–17. The border policemen involved were brought to trial, found guilty and sentenced to prison terms, but all received pardons and were released in a year. The Israeli court found that the command to kill civilians was "blatantly illegal". In December 2007, then-President of Israel Shimon Peres formally apologized for the massacre, and in 2014, President Reuven Rivlin participated in the annual commemoration event in Kfar Qasim referring to it as "a terrible crime."

Follow the Mole: The Kafr Kasim Massacre 60 years later - The Jerusalem Post - Danny Orbach - 11.12.16

One almighty military order and 49 dead Palestinians - +972 Magazine - Sam Bahour - 10.29.16

Um El Hiran Demolition Delayed as State Negotiates Resident Compensation

Um_El_HiranThe demolition of Um El Hiran—an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev—was expected the morning of November 22 after several appeals were rejected. Demolition was delayed at the last minute by the Ministry of Agriculture in order to begin fast-track negotiations with residents on compensation for their homes instead. As of December 1st, five large families from the village agreed to a one time grant of NIS 50,000, more substantial sums for each of their homes, and a plot in the nearby town of Hura. Some Bedouin leaders and families criticized the move saying families were put under pressure from the state to sign. From the other side, criticism was also being levied at the government for compensating residents for illegal structures. Minister Ariel said in response that by this move the Ministry is "returning governability to the Negev. Governability means building according to the law and preventing illegal takeover of state lands… but governability also means presenting permanent legal housing solutions for Bedouin citizens, who are citizens with equal rights like all other Israeli citizens." The compensation and relocation plan faces another obstacle, however, as the city of Hura is resisting absorption of Um El Hiran residents due to its own housing shortage.

From Umm el-Hiran, the future of Zionism looks bleak - +972 Magazine – Orly Noi – 11.22.16

Recent reports and articles by Israeli colleagues


Government Tenders: The Key to a Breakthrough in the Employment of Arabs in the Private Sector - Sikkuy - November 2016


Public campaign to increase Arab voices in the media makes its mark - +972 Magazine - Edan Ring - 12.06.16

No fires or inciting politicians can destroy our shared society - Samah Salaime - +972 Magazine - 11.26.16

No time to wait: Economic discrimination against Arab towns must be fixed immediately – The Jerusalem Post - Ron Gerlitz and Rawnak Natour – 11.23.16

As Arab women become statistics, their killers walk free - +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime – 11.21.16

Dalia Fadila teaches Israeli-Arab students girl power - The Financial Times – Miranda Green – 11.21.16

Mizrahim and Arabs, Time for a Correction – Haaretz - Merav Alush Levron and Ron Gerlitz – 10.11.16

Program seeks to boost Bedouins in Israeli high-tech – Times of Israel - Shoshana Solomon – 10.2.16

Integrating outstanding Arab students into hi-tech - The Jerusalem Post – Lidar Grave-Lazi – 9.20.16

Awards and Recognitions


Sikkuy and ANU ranked 10th of 100 most influential by The Marker
Sikkuy and ANU were selected 10th most influential actors in Israel by The Marker Magazine under the category of social change organizations effectively influencing policies and public opinion.


Adv. Nidal Hayek – Among Israel's 40 Most Influential
The Founding Director of Lawyers for Good Governance was made The Marker's 40 most influential list for his work to enhance good governance, transparency and accountability among Arab municipalities and local councils.


Rana choir wins the International Hrant Dink Award
Rana Choir of Jaffa—20 Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who sing in Hebrew, Arabic and English, won the International Hrant Dink Foundation award for "Inspirations." Awards were granted to people who work for "a world free of discrimination, racism and violence, and through their initiatives inspire and encourage others to support their cause and ideals".


Albironi Middle School from Jdeideh-Makker wins First Place
The school won the Teachers Association's Annual Education Prize in the category of Educational Initiatives for Shared Society.


Mahapach-Taghir– was awarded the NIF UK's Human Rights Award for 2016. Mahapach-Taghir won for their work of bringing Israel's most weakened women communities – Jewish and Arab – to enhance their standard of living as well as to meet and discover joint areas of interest and action.

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Givat Haviva awarded Austria's 2016 Intercultural Achievement Award

Givat Haviva won in the Innovation Category for its "Educators for a Shared Society." The program is part of the work of Givat Haviva's Center for a Shared Society to enhance cooperation between neighboring Jewish and Arab regional councils.

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