Israel Update - February 2019 TwitterFacebook
Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi Number of years of schooling Women Strike Books

Elections and Government


Public Discourse

Civil Society


Arab Political Parties and Representation

Ayman Odeh and Ahmad TibiChanges within and among the political parties that make up the Joint List (which held 13 seats in the outgoing Knesset) ahead of the upcoming general elections are raising questions about the viability of this alliance to retain its level of representation. Joint List MKs Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka of Balad and MK Dov Khenin of Hadash announced they will not run again. MK Dr. Ahmed Tibi (head of Ta’al) split from the alliance, raising concerns that smaller parties will not meet the electoral threshold and that Arab representation in the Knesset overall will be reduced. Arab public discourse, in the meantime, has focused on these and broader concerns, including the merits of voting or boycotting the vote following passage of the Nation-State Law, the role and responsibilities of Arab MKs, whether Arab parties should join a government coalition or opposition, and how to address the anticipated anti-Arab discourse from right-wing parties running divisive campaigns.



Ministry of Education: Additional NIS 500 Million for 110 Arab High Schools

Ministry of EducationIn January 2019, the Ministry of Education announced a new NIS 500 million, three-year pilot program to expand a preferential funding program to 110 Arab high schools. The pilot is part of the Ministry's efforts to close educational gaps by budgeting more teaching hours for disadvantaged communities. To date, the preferential budgeting model that was formulated in 2014 has been gradually implemented for all elementary schools and junior high schools (the weakest quintile of which now receive 35 percent and 18 percent more government funding than the strongest, respectively). At the high school level, however, weak schools have remained under-budgeted. According to the data, 96 percent of Arab high school students are at the weakest schools in the country, with an average 30 percent funding gap between Jewish and Arab high school students (approximately NIS 29,000 allocated per Jewish high school student versus approximately NIS 22,000 per Arab high school student). The new pilot will allow participating high schools to receive additional teaching hours for smaller groups of students, or to use the additional budget for enrichment classes, counseling and other services. MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), who promoted this move, called it "a historic step for Arab high schools." (Hebrew)

Ministry of Housing Conference for Arab Mayors on GR-922

Flyer Ministry of Housing Conference of Arab MayorsIn December 2018, the Ministry of Housing held the second conference for Arab mayors and local government representatives on the housing and construction component of GR-922, the five-year economic development plan for Arab society. Intended to alleviate the severe housing shortage in Arab communities, this is considered one of the largest and most important sections of the five-year plan as well as one of the most difficult to implement. The conference, held in Shefar'am, is part of the ongoing efforts to maintaining transparency and coordination between the government and Arab municipalities. Government presentations showed some significant advances in planning and marketing of housing developments in Arab localities. They also reflected that progress has been much slower than expected due to a shortage of updated master plans and urban planning capacities in Arab localities, a shortage of state-owned land available for construction, and bureaucratic barriers in the interface between central and local governments. The conference included discussion with participating mayors regarding these barriers and the ministry's plans for 2019.


Ministry of Education Launches Social Impact Bond in Rahat

Level of Advance Math Studies in Rahat
The Bedouin city of Rahat, Israel's poorest, was chosen for a Social Impact Bond of NIS 22 million aimed at boosting high school students' math matriculation scores and, in turn, their potential for future economic opportunity. This innovative investment project of the Ministry of Education and Social Finance Israel will fund five years of intervention to close gaps in math scores.


"First 1,000 Days" Government Initiative for Bedouin Babies & Toddlers

ECHAD Program participantsIn early 2019, implementation began on a regional government initiative to promote early childhood services for the Negev Bedouin, Israel’s most impoverished population. The initiative is a strategic partnership between government ministries (Ministries of Welfare and Labor, Agriculture, Health, and Education) JDC-Ashalim, Negev Bedouin municipalities, local experts and NGOs. AJEEC-NISPED, a joint Jewish-Arab organization, won the bid to implement the initiative in late 2018, which includes mapping existing services and needs and developing services for Bedouin babies and toddlers from birth to age three. The government’s funding has been matched by a coalition that includes Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Yad Hanadiv; and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation.



National Insurance Institute Graph

National Insurance Institute Annual Poverty Report

The annual poverty report of the National Insurance Institute shows that fewer Arab families are living in poverty, (47.1% in 2017, 49.2% in 2016) but that the depth and severity of poverty has increased in Arab society, as it has nationwide. The study also shows that poverty rates for Arab residents of East Jerusalem and Bedouin in the Negev have increased significantly since 2016, even as they have dropped for the rest of Arab society. (60-65% and 70-75%, respectively)


Strongest tension in Israeli society today

IDI: Israeli Democracy Index 2018

According to the Israel Democracy Institute’s 2018 Israeli Democracy Index, Israeli citizens (Jews and Arabs) overall view of Israel’s situation is positive: 53% believe it is good or very good, 29.5% think that it is “so so” and only 16% believe that it is bad or very bad. On a personal level, 80% believes that their personal situation is good or very good (83% of Jews compared to 64% of Arabs), and the majority (Jews and Arabs) is proud to be Israeli (81.5%); however we see a decline in this category among Arab Israelis for the second consecutive year – only 51% said they are proud to be Israeli, compared to 88% among Jewish Israelis


Number of years of schooling

The Haredi Institute for Public Affairs | Quality of Life Among Israel's Population Groups

This extensive comparative study focuses on quantitative and qualitative measures in an effort to expand the parameters by which Haredi Jews, non-Haredi Jews, and Arabs in Israel are evaluated socio-economically. Surveying over 1,000 respondents, the study finds that Arab citizens ranked lowest on six out of nine indicators, suggesting that major gaps exist in both subjective and objective measures. Haredi respondents had results comparable to non-Haredi Jews, despite low income levels and high poverty rates comparable to Arab citizens. The study yields insights on the motivations and priorities of each group, and to some degree their perceived need for change.



The 2018 Municipal Elections in Arab Localities: An Overview - Itamar Radai and Arik Rudnitzky, Bayan, Kondrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation and The Mohse Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies | December 2018

Israel's Plan to Reduce Socio Economic Gaps in East Jerusalem - Ephraim Lavie, Sason Hadad, and Meir Elran, INSS | November 2018


Jewish and Arab Women Unite Against Violence

Women protesting violenceRecent violent murders of two teenage girls, one Druze and one Eritrean, at the end of November sparked a nation-wide women’s protest and strike on December 4, uniting Jewish and Arab women in a call for the government to take responsibility for violence against women throughout the country. The protest received support from a multitude of public and private institutions around the country, including 12 local authorities, nine of them Arab, and culminated in a 30,000-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv – the largest women-led protest ever in Israel. Speakers at the rally included well-known Arab activists Samah Salaime (NAM – Arab Women in the Center) and Maisam Jaljuli (Na’amat). Arab activists and writers highlighted that these murders are just part of the problem of violence and lack of law enforcement in Arab society, which has resulted in Arab women making up nearly half the female murder victims in Israel in 2018.


In Civil, Legal and Academic Circles, Nation-State Law Activity Continues

Nation-State Law ProtestsThe Knesset’s passage in July 2018 of the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People (known as the "Nation-State Law") generated heated and polarized discourse both in Israel and among North American Jewry. While controversy over the law had largely waned from public view, conferences, campaigns and appeals to the Supreme Court have advanced within Israeli civil society, academic and activist circles over the law’s implications for the status of the Arab minority, the Arabic language, and Jewish-Arab relations. More recently, these concerns are resurfacing in public discourse about the upcoming national elections, as part of candidates’ and parties’ positions and campaigns.


National Controversy Surrounds Haifa Deputy Mayor Appointment

Shrine in HaifaIn early December, controversy surrounded the newly elected mayor of Haifa, Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem, over the coalition agreement she signed with the Haifa Front (the local Jewish-Arab party associated with Hadash), and her appointment of its local head, Arab attorney Adv. Raja Za’atara (previously a spokesman for the Joint List), as deputy mayor for the second half of the term. Za'atra was heavily criticized for past controversial statements about Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS. Supporters cited the importance of this political partnership for continuation of Haifa's model of Jewish-Arab coexistence, (Hebrew) and voiced suspicions about the political motives of critics. The controversy pushed Haifa's local Jewish-Arab political relations into the national spotlight.


Channel 10 Poll: Jewish Attitudes towards Arab Citizens

Jewish attitudes about childrens' friendships with ArabsIsrael's Channel 10 commissioned a small-scale poll addressing Israeli Jewish attitudes toward Arab citizens. Published on December 9, 2018 and aired on the current affairs program London et Kirschenbaum, the results sparked significant discourse and reflection as they indicated considerable degrees of intolerance toward Arab citizens among respondents, particularly those under age 30 and those from religious communities. The poll was conducted by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute and included 500 Jewish participants with varied religious and educational backgrounds.



Prince William visiting Arabtech Port

UK Embassy Launches Website to Help Arab Tech Entrepreneurs

The UK Tech Hub has launched a website, Arabtech Port, to foster success among Arab high-tech entrepreneurs in Israel and involve more Arab citizens in the industry. The Arabtech Port includes educational articles and videos, a database of Arab startups in Israel, links to NGOs that work to integrate Arab citizens into high-tech, success stories, and news and events of interest to workers in the field. The UK Tech Hub is a nonprofit initiative of the British Embassy in Israel supporting and connecting Arab entrepreneurs to business opportunities in the UK.


Co-Impact Group

Co-Impact Reports 966 Hires in 11 Companies in 2018

Co-Impact (formerly Collective Impact), which works with private sector companies to increase the number of Arab employees as well as the quality of their employment, reported progress for 2018 and over the last five years. In 2018, 11 companies with tracking hires brought on 966 Arab employees, twice the number in 2016. Co-Impact currently works with 22 companies to implement changes towards increased recruitment, hiring, and management of diverse staff. At three of these companies, 20 percent of employees are now Arab, approximately equal to their representation in the Israeli population.

Arabic children's books

Hatzbani Books Translates Childrens’ Classics to Arabic

Approximately 1,500 Hebrew children’s books are published annually in Israel, but only about 40 in Arabic, and few international classics have ever been translated. Hatzbani, a new publishing house, was established in 2018 to fill this gap, to produce original and classic works in Arabic and Hebrew. Hatzbani also raises awareness of this gap and works with major bookstores in Israel, pedagogic circles, kindergartens, and other entities to promote the availability of Arabic-language children’s books.

Negev Bedouin Children Exhibit

Israel Museum Exhibits Photographs by Negev Bedouin Children

An exhibition at the Israel Museum, "The Voice Behind the Image,” displayed photographs taken by Bedouin children from unrecognized villages in the Negev. The exhibition was implemented in cooperation with "Through a Child's Lens" project of the Negev Coexistence Forum, a Jewish-Arab organization working to promote the rights of Bedouins and Jewish-Bedouin collaboration in the Negev.  The exhibition was open throughout the last three months of 2018.

Students at Tel Aviv University

Challenges of Israeli Academia as a Shared Space | Van Leer Jerusalem Institute & Abraham Initiatives Seminar

Academics and civil society leaders gathered at a seminar organized by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Abraham Initiatives to discuss the challenges and opportunities prompted by the substantial increase in the number of Arab students in Israeli academia, a result of the Council for Higher Education's plans to enhance Arab citizens' access to higher education. The Israeli government has allocated around NIS 1 billion toward this goal since 2011.


Group picture from Givat Haviva

Givat Haviva International School Opens

The new Givat Haviva International School opened in the fall of 2018, enrolling 55 students from 17 countries, including 28 Jews and Arabs from Israel. The English-language residential high school for 11th and 12th grade students “seeks to transform the Middle East and beyond by developing a powerful network of leaders who will work together to achieve shared society and a sustainable, just future.” The school is an International Baccalaureate World School, with graduates receiving an IB diploma, and is located on the Givat Haviva campus.

Hasoub Conference

Hasoub Conference Looks at the Future of Arabs in High-Tech

Hasoub, an Arab-led NGO promoting high tech entrepreneurship in Arab society, held its first annual conference, “From Pipe Dreams to Pipelines,” on November 16, 2018 in Um El Fahem. The conference brought together 450 participants including representatives of leading high-tech companies, startups, venture capital investors, Angel Investors, Arab entrepreneurs and Arab student bodies. The event included well-known Jewish and Arab speakers from the Israeli high-tech sector, such as Dov Moran, Yoram Yaacovi and Aziz Kaddan, panel discussions, and networking events. Hasoub released a summary video of the conference.

Arab-Jewish Women's Choir in Rana

Jaffa-Based Arab-Jewish Women’s Choir Rana Releases Debut Album

After a successful crowd-funding campaign, the choir launched its debut album of its musical repertoire from over the years: Eiynayim Sheli (My Dearest), Hayom (Today), Ana Bitnafas Khourye (I am breathing freedom), Chad Gadya and more. Since its founding by conductor Mika Danny and artistic director Idan Toledano, Rana Choir, comprised of Jewish, Christian and Muslim Israeli women, has performed throughout Israel and around the world, collaborating with a variety of Israeli and American artists.

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