April 12, 2019

This week, Israelis cast their votes in the Israeli election. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party won by a small margin, and he is poised to form a governing coalition comprised of mainly right-wing parties. Although the centrist Blue and White Party headed by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid won the same number of seats as Likud, they do not have enough support from other parties to form a coalition.

In a previous blog, we wrote about the importance of Arab Israeli citizens participation in the political process. The election results reveal exceptionally low voter turnout in Arab communities. Only 49% of Arab citizens went to the polls, down from 64% in the 2015 election. In this election, there was strong pressure among the Arab community to boycott voting to show their discontent with Israeli policies.

We previously predicted that the passage of the Nation State Law would affect the decision among Arab voters to stay home on election day. I believe the reduced turnout can be attrib...

March 28, 2019

Israel’s Negev desert is home to both Jews and Arabs. Like many other shared spaces in Israel, there is work being done to create equal opportunities for Israel’s citizens. One marginalized group is the Bedouin Arab population. Historically nomadic, Bedouin groups often seek to maintain their traditional style of life even in the modern state of Israel. One NGO called AJEEC-NISPED (Arab-Jewish Center for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation and the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Economic Development) is proactively working to improve the economic and social status of the Negev’s Bedouin population while facilitating their integration into the surrounding population.

AJEEC provides many programs and services, among them programs to promote positive relationships between Jews and Arabs. About 15 years ago, the organization established a gap year program that takes Jewish and Arab high school graduates and places them in a cohort to attend workshops, volunteer together in lo...

March 21, 2019

Encounters between Israeli and Palestinian groups are central to peacebuilding. Several NGOs committed to this goal have discovered that some Israelis and Palestinians are eager to participate in encounters that involve a shared love of play. Games are structured, have an agreed upon set of rules, and require participants to communicate with one another and work together. These opportunities give participants a chance to get to know one another separately from the tense political situation that surrounds them.

For example, a project called Jerusalem Double was launched by the non-profit Kulna Yerushalayim to connect Jews and Arabs living in Jerusalem by inviting them to participate in backgammon (or “shesh-besh” in Hebrew and Arabic) tournaments in Jerusalem’s Old City. As founder Zaki Djemal states, “Backgammon is played throughout the Middle East, so we have this game in common. It’s fun, down to earth, accessible and inclusive. Games have an amazing power to reduce tension and create...

March 8, 2019

With Israel’s election just a month away, one of the lesser debated issues has been how Israel’s Arab citizens will vote. Most of the country’s Arab citizens have historically participated in the political system out of a belief that participation is critical to maintaining or improving equal rights. At the same time, there is a contingent of Arab voters who believe that boycotting the political system is the most effective way to show their disagreement with Israeli policies. I believe that strong Arab representation in the Knesset is important for Jewish-Israeli coexistence and vital to strengthening Israeli society.

Time will tell if Israel’s May passage of the Nation State Law will play a significant role in impacting voter turnout and behavior. The law states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and they have the right to self-determination in their historic homeland. It defines Hebrew as the country’s official language, amending Arabic to a language with special s...

February 21, 2019

Israel is often referred to as the “Start-Up Nation” owing to its fast-paced innovative culture and the fact that it has the largest number of start-up companies in the world per capita. Major multi-national corporations, including Google, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola, have chosen to open research and development centers in Israel to harness the local talent, innovation, and creativity.  

Last week, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation inaugurated its cutting-edge Innovation Center to educate about Israel’s history as a “Start-Up Nation” and showcase diverse Israeli companies engaging in groundbreaking efforts to better the world.

As the Center states, “At any given moment there are 5,000 start-ups in Israel working in the fields of agriculture, water, cyber technology, security, space, mobile, industry, food, smart transportation, clean energy, film, games, medicine, science and research.”

The Center aims to educate visitors about the diverse people behind Israeli innovation. The late S...

February 7, 2019

One of the reasons we launched Boston Partners for Peace is to offer a new way to engage with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We believe meaningful discourse around the conflict should include a diverse range of people and perspectives. We aim to engage and inform the community so we can empower changemakers in Israel and develop new local leadership around the conflict right here in Boston. These conversations may be challenging and at times even painful.

As a proud supporter of Israel, I choose to share Israel’s founding story and celebrate its successes. At the same time, I know that Arab-Israeli and Palestinian communities are a part of its story. And while we may have different narratives, their voices shouldn’t be ignored. It is important that we explore the conflicting truths of Israelis and Palestinians living this reality every day. If we try to understand one another’s perspectives, we may find new ways to move forward.

Engaging with voices that we might not agree with encou...

January 18, 2019

This Monday, Americans will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and commemorate the life and legacy of an extraordinary individual. Dr. King is an inspiration to people around the world seeking peace in divided communities. During  the civil rights movement, Dr. King advocated that diversity and difference are assets to American success, not a detriment. Dr. King promoted the idea that differences in culture, religious practice, and skin color don’t matter; and Americans are united by shared values and common humanity. 

Dr. King’s ideas are a source of inspiration for Boston Partners for Peace. Throughout his life, Dr. King embodied the values of peace and tolerance. Through their grassroots initiatives, our partner NGOs choose peacebuilding tactics in the hopes of creating lasting change and building trust between Jews and Arabs.

For example, activists from Women Wage Peace proposed new legislation in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) that calls for review of non-violent political...

December 13, 2018

Israel’s population is diverse and complicated. Its Arab citizens comprise about 20% of the total population, and include Muslim, Christian, Druze and Bedouin citizens, among others. These citizens face numerous barriers to full integration and political engagement. In Arab majority towns, residents confront the presence of organized crime and lower police presence. The limited amount of public land makes infrastructure expansion difficult. In the towns themselves, there is often little economic opportunity.

When I spent time in Israel last year, I interned for the Abraham Fund Initiatives where I had the opportunity to visit the town of Kfar Qasem, about an hour outside of Tel Aviv along Israel’s border with the West Bank. While touring the town and hearing from some of its residents, I was struck by the insularity of the town. Kfar Qasem is located just two kilometers away from the neighboring Jewish town of Rosh HaAyin, yet the two populations rarely come into contact. This isolation...

November 19, 2018

Most Americans will mark Thanksgiving this week by gathering with family and friends to celebrate community and give thanks for their loved ones. We hope families will also give thanks for their safety, while thinking of Israelis and Palestinians whose futures are uncertain, and whose lives are frequently interrupted by conflict.

Last week was particularly difficult for supporters of efforts to create peace and tolerance between the two peoples. Israel and Hamas engaged in renewed conflict that cost lives and left many injured. Residents of Southern Israel experienced an unprecedented barrage of rockets from Gaza following an IDF operation in Gaza that went wrong. Over two days, 500 rockets terrorized families living in border communities. More than 50 Israelis were treated for injuries and a Palestinian was killed when a rocket struck an apartment building in Ashkelon. Palestinians in Gaza were also left to deal with the fallout from the Israeli reprisal.

Also, this week, Boston Partner...

October 31, 2018

We know that Israel is one of the most diverse countries in the Middle East, but there is work to be done to address the low rate of Arab employment. Arab citizens comprise about 20% of the population, but only contribute 8% to the country’s GDP. At the same time, only 55% of Arab citizens with over 12 years of education participate in the workforce. Arab citizens who do achieve higher levels of education often do not work in their field, or face wage discrimination. Disparities in unemployment rates, fields of employment, and levels of income are detrimental to the economy and inhibit social cohesion between populations.

Our partner organization, Collective Impact: The Partnership for a Breakthrough in Arab Employment, was created to respond to these disparities and create a long-term, sustainable “breakthrough” in the existing patterns of discrimination. They aim to increase the employment rate and improve the quality of employment of the Arab population through inter-sectoral partner...

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