Last week, we were fortunate to host Israel’s first permanent Arab Supreme Court Justice, Salim Joubran. Justice Joubran retired from the Court in 2017, and he is now the Chairperson of Kav Mashve, one of our Peacebuilding partners. Justice Joubran imparted words of awe and inspiration, and provided the audience with his own reflections on peace, friendship, and the power of Israel’s Arab citizens to realize their political destiny.
Justice Joubran and I shared a brief conversation on the way to the airport after his talk. During our car ride, he made sure to emphasize a point that he had also raised in his lecture. Friendship, Justice Joubran said, is made between people and not between governments. Friendship is a connection that individuals create when they live together, shop together, and build lives together. Governments may have neighbors and allies, but they do not have friends. And, as we hear from many of our peacebuilders, friendship across social divides is a necessary precondition for peace between governments.
I was also struck by some of what Justice Joubran said about Arab citizens realizing their political destiny in a Jewish state. He said that his dream case was one that would raise the question of “Who is a Jew?” There would be an 11-member Supreme Court panel, where 10 of the justices were Jewish and they would be divided 5-5. It would be left to Justice Joubran, an Arab citizen of Israel, to decide who is a Jew. While this case never materialized, I was inspired by the power that some Arab citizens have to shape the society around them, and how they use that power for good.
The theme of creating a shared society was woven throughout Justice Joubran’s talk. It came out most clearly when he spoke about his connection to Kav Mashve. Kav Mashve promotes equal opportunities for Arab university graduates within the Israeli business sector. They have programs for Arab high school and university students that help them prepare for life after academia. They train Arab managers, hold coding workshops, and work with employers to understand the value of diversity and what the Arab work force can contribute to a company.
Having grown up in Haifa, Justice Joubran is acutely aware of the barriers that some Arab citizens face in trying to integrate into broader Israeli society. Haifa is a mixed city, but even in mixed cities there are often separate Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. Language, social, and economic barriers can all stand in the way of success for Israel’s Arab citizens. Organizations like Kav Mashve are working to close those gaps.
I left our event last week heartened. Justice Joubran mentioned to me how grateful he is that American Jews have taken an interest in Israel’s Arab citizens. Our work is to support grassroots peacebuilders and it was nice for me to hear that our movement is building enough momentum to be noticed by activists on the ground. Thanks to Justice Joubran and organizations like Kav Mashve, we are helping to drive change in Israel.