The UK Task Force on issues relating to Arab citizens of Israel is to wind down its role over the coming months with its core educational activities to be transferred to a new Education Officer role at UJIA.
Established in 2010 to support civic equality in Israel, the broad-based coalition of 39 communal organisations is spearheaded by an executive committee comprising The Abraham Fund Initiatives, The Board of Deputies of British Jews, New Israel Fund UK, UJIA, and Pears Foundation.
Through its Educate, Engage and Empower strategy the UK Task Force has had a significant impact on the Jewish community’s awareness and understanding of the issues facing Israel’s Arab citizens. Indeed, the decision to wind down the initiative is a reflection of the organisation’s success in achieving its core goals of awareness-raising and engagement.
Starting from a very low base seven years ago there is now very widespread recognition and understanding within the community of the issues affecting Israeli Arabs. As an illustration, Limmud’s last winter conference offered no less than eleven sessions which directly related to or touched upon the situation of Arab citizens of Israel.
Michael Wegier, Chief Executive of UJIA said:
“The winding down of the UK Task Force as a stand-alone organisation marks the successful accomplishment of its goals. There is barely a major communal organisation that has not been exposed to the issues through one of the Task Force’s study trips to Israel or events in the UK. And having engaged meaningfully in this way, over 80%* of trip participants report that they are actively engaging with the issues on their return. UJIA looks forward to building on this success through the activities of our newly appointed dedicated Education Officer”.
Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of Pears Foundation said:
“A tremendous amount of work has been done and I believe that this issue is now firmly established within our communal leadership, organisations and especially our young people. In turn I am confident that these collective efforts will continue to have a positive impact in improving the situation for Arab citizens in Israel. One of the UK Task Force’s achievements that fills me with the greatest hope is the confident engagement with this issue from our younger generation. It is terrific that 72%** of participants on Israel tours for our youth in the last two summers (comprising approximately 1,200 young people) engaged with UK Task Force programming in their itineraries. I am very proud of our foundation’s involvement with the UK Task Force initiative, and of how our community has come together around this important issue”
Though the time is ripe for the UK Task Force to be wound down none of the coalition members are under any illusions about the magnitude of the challenge to achieve civic equality for Israel’s Arab citizens. Toni Rickenback, who has led the UK Task Force for the last 3 and half years, called on those individuals and organisations who, through their engagement with the Task Force, have become engaged with the issues facing Israeli Arabs, to continue their efforts to promote social and political equality for all Israeli citizens:
“While many of the indices of inequality show that the situation is improving there is still a long way to go. For example, employment rates of Arab women increased from 17% to 26% between 2003 and 2013, but their participation rate is still 2.5 times less than that of Arab men and Jewish women (66%)***. The UK Task Force can be proud of what we have achieved in terms of our specific goals but it’s now up to coalition members and those who the Task Force has engaged- be they youth movements, schools, synagogues, businesses or individuals – to embed the determination to advance the issue of equality for Israel’s Arab citizens”.
*Average reported post study trip participation over three years.
** 2015/16 BBYO, FZY, Habonim Dror, LJY Netzer, Noam, RSY Netzer, Tribe
***Van Leer Institute 2015 Gender Index (pages 120-137)