(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The percentage of Israeli Arabs living in poverty is more than twice that of Jews, according to a new report set to be released Monday by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, a capital-based center aiming to advance the study of regional cultures.
Authored by Dr. Suleiman Abubader, a professor of economics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Daniel Gottlieb, an affiliated senior lecturer from the same institution, the report will officially be presented at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute's second annual conference examining Israeli society and economy.
Based on an official study conducted by the Galilee Society for Research and Services, a national organization committed to developing opportunities for the Arab population, the two researchers found that the poverty gap between Arab and Jewish citizens is not getting better. While 17.7 percent of the Jewish population lived under the poverty line in 2005, more than half of the Arab community (54.2%) was officially considered poor in the same time period.
By comparison, in 1997 13.9% of the Jewish population and 35.9% of the Arab population lived in poverty. Moreover, the researchers stressed that despite the country's recent economic recovery, poverty among the Arab population has not eased.
"There is a high rate of unemployment among Arab men, and especially among the women," explained Abubader, adding that this is one of the first studies of the Arab sector that includes Christians, Muslims, Druse, as well as Beduin populations in both legal and illegal villages.
The researchers noted that poverty in the Beduin community in the South is especially severe, with 66.4% of those living in legal villages living under the poverty line, which is 13% higher than in other Israeli Arab communities and four times more than in the Jewish population. Among Beduin residing in non-legal villages the figure was even higher, with 79.2% living below the poverty line.
Abubader explained that the unemployment in that sector is exacerbated by little information on how to obtain rights and benefits, large families and a lack of educational opportunities.
"Many are not really sure how to access their benefits or do not know their rights," he said. "In some villages, even the ones that are recognized, there is no transportation and they cannot reach the main center in Beersheba."
"Education is the key to breaking out of the poverty cycle," continued Abubader. "It allows almost 100% opportunities for men and especially women to find work."