Israel is home to 1.7 million Arabs citizens. That’s one in five Israelis who live and work in close proximity every day. What is the status of Jewish-Arab relations within Israel? What is it like to be an Arab citizen of the democratic state of the Jewish people? What are the hopes and aspirations of Israel’s Arab minority? On March 22, educational pioneer Dr. Dalia Fadila will share her journey of constructing an empowered identity as an Arab Muslim woman citizen of Israel, and how she is working to prepare the next generation of Arab citizens to be part of a shared and equal Israeli society.
Dr. Fadila’s upcoming Stern Family Institute lecture at Gratz is part of the Israeli Change Makers series of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary, and is held in partnership with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. The lecture and accompanying discussion are designed to shed light into the realities of Arab citizens of Israel from the perspective of one of its leading change-makers.
“The Task Force was created as an educational resource on Arab citizens out of the understanding that American Jewish communities, who care so deeply about Israel, need opportunities to learn about 21 percent of Israel’s population whose issues and concerns impact Israel’s strength and future as a whole,” said Liron Shoham, associate director of the task force.
Through education, Dr. Fadila seeks to empower young Arab citizens to break through barriers, whether to equal participation in Israel’s advanced industries and public institutions, or by overcoming cultural expectations and traditions. Arab citizens today are the most disadvantaged population in Israel, with nearly three times the poverty rates as the Jewish majority and generally lower rates and quality of employment. Arab women especially, employed at roughly 35 percent, have some of the lowest workforce participation rates in the world.
“Over the last 10-15 years, the government of Israel has recognized economic gaps between Arab and Jewish citizens and the costs they incur to Israel’s economy as a whole as one of its top-most domestic priorities,” Shoham said. “At the same time, survey after survey shows that for a growing majority of Arab citizens, their priority is to be able to envision a fruitful and meaningful future for their families and children in Israel, with equal access to opportunity and prosperity.”
But bridging these gaps takes innovation. Barriers to the full socio-economic participation of Arab citizens are found at every level of Israeli society: from within traditional Arab society—where girls may be discouraged from travelling outside town to work or study, to the fact that Arab and Jewish citizens study in separate public-school streams, to the role military service plays in finding employment.
Dr. Fadila is no stranger to breaking barriers to a successful career. The first female dean of a Muslim college in Israel, she went from a professor of English literature to director of Al-Qasemi College for Science and Engineering in Baka al-Garbiyyeh. But her vision as an educator was more ambitious, and in 2008 she founded Q Schools, a network of Arab-English bilingual schools that aims to prepare “the next generation of Arab citizens” to break ceilings of their own.
“Whatever might be taken for granted in any other context, here it’s a revolution,” Dr. Fadila said of her efforts to inject female protagonists into her school books and critical questioning skills into her curriculum.
With the success of Q Schools, Dr. Fadila was appointed in 2017 as the official advisor to the Knesset on matters of education for Israel’s Arab society. She also lectures at the Lauder School for Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Through the Fulbright Program, she led a delegation of Arab and Jewish women to Temple University in Philadelphia.
Dr. Fadila’s lecture begins at 7 p.m. on March 22 at Gratz College. To register for this free event, click here.
Stern Family Institute for Israel Studies at Gratz College
The Harry Stern Family Institute for Israel Studies seeks to educate American Jewry about complex issues related to Israel and Zionism. Gratz College wishes to thank the Stern Family for their commitment to Israel education and for making this event possible.