Eitan Yudilevich

Arabs and Jews in Israel – Towards ‘The Day After’

Being an Arab citizen of Israel has always been challenging, but the difficulties have intensified since October 7, 2023. Conversations with Jewish friends abroad about their rising sense of insecurity due to antisemitism prompt me to reflect on the struggles faced by my Arab friends and acquaintances in Israel.

In a November 2023 article on Jews and Arabs in Israel during wartime, I expressed hope that the situation was improving. However, a recently published report by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on Arab society after seven months of war reveals that about 47% of Arabs in Israel have experienced a negative change in the relationship between Arabs and Jews. Similarly, 43% of Jews in Israel feel the same way. As in other areas of life in Israel, the apparent return to “normality” is only superficial.

Traditionally, Jews in Israel have been primarily concerned with external security threats. The INSS report shows that today, social, and national tensions in Israel are of more concern to Jews than external threats (48% vs. 43%). For Arabs in Israel, the difference is even more significant: 45% are more concerned about social and national tensions, while 28% are more concerned about external security threats.

There is a notable disparity between the news consumed by Jews and Arabs in Israel. Jews primarily get their information from Israeli TV channels and digital media, which often provide limited exposure to the destruction and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In contrast, Arabs in Israel receive detailed coverage of civilian casualties there. While most Arabs in Israel oppose Hamas and condemn the events of October 7, many Israeli Jews struggle to understand their identification with the suffering in Gaza.

The INSS report recommends measures to prevent further deterioration or escalation into violence between Jews and Arabs, such as providing economic assistance and safeguarding freedom of speech.

In this regard, the value of civil society initiatives that bring Arabs and Jews together on important common causes cannot be underestimated.

An exemplary initiative is “Moona – A Space for Change,” a non-profit which has established and operates a nationwide network of tech canters for training  (“Applied Academic High-Tech Network”), including at Majd al-Krum in the Galilee (the first center), Umm al-Fahm and Kafr Qassem (additional centers are planned). At Moona, Arabs and Jews collaborate to create a diverse and inclusive workforce in the Israeli hi-tech sector by developing local infrastructure and enhancing human capital through joint regional activities. One of Moona’s programs, “A Gateway to High Tech”, offers young students, starting from 7th grade, the chance to plan, build, and operate a technological product that solve real-life challenges (see here, in Arabic). The idea is to expose Arab boys and girls to technology and teamwork at an early stage and show them that they can succeed. Moona’s trained mentors, who speak the students’ language, serve as role models throughout the process.

Such initiatives are crucial in the pursuit of a more inclusive Israeli society. In the present situation, the fact that they continue their operations and programs offer hope that Jews and Arabs in Israel are establishing a resilient foundation for a shared society. Therefore, it is essential to support and expand such initiatives, enabling more Arabs and Jews to benefit from their inspiring work.

About the Author
Dr. Eitan Yudilevich completed his doctoral studies in computers and systems engineering in the field of medical imaging in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He earned his Master's Degree in mathematics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in electrical engineering at Haifa's Technion. Dr. Yudilevich was appointed as the Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation on January 1, 2006 and served in this position for 17 years, until February, 28, 2023. Dr. Yudilevich is now an independent consultant .
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