Recently, while going through customs in the United States, I ended up in a conversation about Israel with a very liberal minded, trendy exchange student studying in Paris. Somehow, I mentioned the fact that Israel gives monthly child subsidies to all Israelis who have children. She asked if this included Arab Israeli people and was surprised when I said that, of course, as Israeli citizens they would receive such benefits. In addition, she was even more shocked about Israeli Arab peoples serving in the government and in the Knesset. She asked if I was really sure, as she had only heard that Israel was operating under an apartheid system and this did not make sense. I told her that, though discrimination and racism does occur, it is a far cry from apartheid.
Israel is comprised of citizens from many various ethnicities – the most prevalent are Jewish and Arab people. Often, all that the world hears is about Israel’s conflicts with Arab peoples or about them being discriminated against. Hence, many believe that Israel is either an apartheid system on the one hand, or that Arab peoples are making no contribution to Israeli society on the other, both of which are far from true. It is an injustice to both Jewish Israeli people and an insult to Arab Israeli people that there is such a plethora of misinformation circulating causing Israeli Jewish people to look like venomous racists and Israeli Arab people to look like helpless, dangerous, or uneducated victims and/or villains.
The truth is far more complex than people would like to think. Yes, sadly, there are both racist Jewish Israelis and Arab terrorists in Israel, but neither represents the whole of Israeli society. There are also additional challenges to Israeli Arabs who often undergo far more extensive background checks to get jobs or who get pulled aside for security checks more often as a result of the security situation within Israel.
However, Arab people in Israel continue to have a much higher standard of living and greater opportunities than in neighboring countries. Furthermore, they enjoy representation in the Knesset and even have members in the government and in the Supreme Court. For example, there is currently one Arab Supreme Court Judge, Salim Joubran, and there are twelve Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
In addition to government, Arab people have achieved a lot in various areas of Israeli society. Just a month ago, an Arab Israeli singer won “The Voice”, Israel’s version of the American reality show. Judges and voters alike were moved by her voice and were not deterred by her Arab background. Furthermore, Israel has been represented by their Arab citizens around the world in cultural or social capacities. Israeli Arab Mira Awwad represented Israel at the Eurovision song contest in 2009. Moreover, two of Israel’s past Miss Israel beauty pageant winners were Israeli Arabs-Angelina Fares and Rana Raslan.
Israeli Arab people also represent Israel oversees in an official capacity, such as Ali Yahya and Reda Mansour, both of whom have been Israeli diplomats and Ambassadors. Yahya served as Israeli Ambassador to Finland and then to Greece, while Mansour was the youngest Israeli ambassador ever, first serving in Ecuador. Mansour is a member of the Druze community, which is unique in its own right. In addition, Israel appoints other Arab people and Druze people as diplomats to posts around the world. There are also many Israeli Arab professors who have created cutting edge technologies for agriculture, medicine and other fields.
Even in the Israeli Defense Forces, Israeli Arabs have gained a place if they choose to serve and pass the background checks. The Druze community is the most known for achievements in the IDF, rising to high ranks. However, even the mainstream Arab community can serve, though when they do they often choose to not be open about it for fear of repercussions from their own community.
Overall, the Arab community has been able to be a significant component in Israeli society, a fact that many around the world would have no knowledge of. While it is often true that there are great challenges facing Arab people in Israel, there are also many opportunities. Israeli Arabs are not just helpless victims or evil terrorists, but many are talented, smart individuals with the ability to overcome these obstacles.
In Ezekiel, God promises that non-Jews living in Israel will be allotted an inheritance with the tribes of Israel and are to be considered as one of Israel (Ezekiel 47:22). Those Israeli Arab people who are willing to acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob seem to have a place to inherit with Jewish Israeli people. Already, there are Israeli Arab people who do believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even support Israel. We can pray that this will grow further and that God will do a great work among Israeli Arab people. Perhaps, they will even play a great role in the eventual restoration of Jewish Israel, maybe even leading to a regional revival (Isaiah 19:18-25). It is difficult to know how God plans to do these things, but it is clear that God cares deeply about the Arab population as well and is not simply ignoring them in His plans for Israel. He can and will move hearts and bring restoration!
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