(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Justice Ministry late Monday night sponsored a conference at the Tel Aviv Bar Association, to aggressively recruit Israeli-Arabs and other minorities.
The aim of the conference was to provide the participants with detailed information about the range of divisions the ministry has and speaking to their unique issues.
Conference participant Gelila al-Karinawi, who identified herself as a Beduin Arab and a third-year law student at Sapir Law School in Sderot, said that the opportunity to have the ministry “speaking to us face to face is a happy surprise.”
Karinawi, hailing from Ra’ad village near Beersheba said she wanted to serve in the Public Defender’s Office “to defend people who are weaker than me.”
She said that they had known before the conference that there were programs to hold a small number of slots for “diversity hires,” but she had not known that the ministry was ready to come to her to try to help her, or minority aspiring lawyers like her, with the process.
The conference itself was headed by Justice Ministry director-general Emi Palmor, and included presentations from a range of senior justice ministry officials in departments as diverse as the Public Defender, Criminal State Prosecutor, Civil Law Division and Bankruptcy Division.
The conference included veteran Justice Ministry lawyers from a minority background and a moving video titled “Partners on the Path” with expert minority lawyers telling about their mostly positive, but also challenging experiences.
Many of the speakers emphasized that while the ministry welcomed minority lawyers with open arms, those individuals who were welcomed would be as a result of their talents as lawyers.
Another conference participant who wished to remain anonymous, but identified himself as Beduin Arab from Sipar Village near Arad and a second-year law student at Kiryat Ono Law School, said that the conference was “good for our community.”
He said that the conference could help minorities like him bridge a real divide which sometimes holds minorities back, “not because of racism or discrimination,” but because of challenges with “the Hebrew language and socioeconomic issues.”
The participant said he wanted to be a state prosecutor, which he viewed as holding the greatest challenges and where a lawyer could see “more action and get more responsibility” even at junior level.
Misa Zoabi, a veteran Israeli- Arab prosecutor since 2008 in the Upper Nazareth office said that she joined the ministry “not out of pressure, but faith in public service and wanting to contribute and promote justice.”
Zoabi handles the full range of criminal cases, including organized crime (only excluding security crimes) and described some early unique challenges in integrating into the ministry as a minority.
She said that sometimes she initially felt less confident about her “Hebrew language proficiency” or “whether an Arab would be accepted,” but that eventually “these feelings go away.”
Zoabi described some careless or racist-type comments on occasion from members of the public, but said she pushed through these challenges with “focus on her job and professionalism,” and that she did not feel these challenges within the ministry itself.
Karinawi said that joining the ministry in the current tense period between Jewish and Arab sectors “is not easy,” but she “just wants to be a good professional and hoped it would not get to me.”
The Justice Ministry said that out of around 4,000 employees and interns, it currently has 315 Arabs, and out of 1,564 workers and interns in the State Prosecutor’s Office, it employs 103 Arabs.
The ministry has recently held similar events for haredim in Jerusalem and for Israeli Arabs in Haifa with Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and other top officials in attendance.