Over forty representatives from the UK’s Jewish community participated in a high-level study trip from 10-14 February 2013 exploring issues relating to Arab citizens of Israel living in mixed cities. Delegates toured Jaffa, Lod and Haifa, visiting projects and engaging with leading interlocutors within the Arab community, the public sector and civil society sphere.
Led by Co-Chairs of the UK Task Force, UJIA Chief Executive Michael Wegier and Pears Foundation Executive Chair Trevor Pears CMG, the delegation included senior figures in British Jewry, including religious, political and youth leaders, as well as charitable foundations.
The delegates were in Israel to visit Arab communities living in mixed cities, close to the country’s economic centres, to understand the main barriers to social integration and prosperity. 20% of Israel’s population is Arab but, according to a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in January 2010, 50% of the Arab population lives in poverty. Tensions between Jews and Arabs in mixed cities have, in recent years, spilled over into violence and the delegates were keen to learn about steps being taken to improve the situation, and meet Israeli partners, so they can engage on these issues on their return.
Participants experienced an active on-the-ground learning experience and met with a range of Israeli political figures, civil society representatives and academics working to reduce inequality and improve Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Key speakers included: the Kadi of Jerusalem, Dr Iyad Zahalka, Aiman Seif, General Director of the Authority for the Economic Development of Minority Sectors in the Prime Minister’s Office and Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs.
Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “The visit showed, in a stark way, how the issues around the integration of the Arab minority in Israel are riddled with complexity… There are no easy solutions but we met personalities and saw projects, all of which exuded a palpable commitment and enthusiasm to helping Israel meet the commitments enshrined in its Declaration of Independence. The UK Jewish community can be immensely proud that its key institutions have created a Task Force to inform, educate and work on these issues.”
Speaking after the study visit, Trevor Pears and Michael Wegier, Co-Chairs, UK Task Force said:
“The breadth of participation on the UK Task Force 2013 study trip shows the importance the British Jewish community ascribes and the effort we are prepared to commit together to understanding what is unquestionably one of the most significant and complex challenges facing Israeli society today.”
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