Abraham Fund to send briefing on Arab community to 3,000 gov't officials

'They will no longer be able to use the excuse that they don't understand the Arab minority.'

A comprehensive information packet developed by the Abraham Fund Initiatives, detailing the economic, cultural and political history of the Arab sector in Israel will be provided to 3,000 government officials in the next few weeks, most likely in conjunction with Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman. "After the packet is produced we will see what it contains, and at that point we will give our opinion of it and say whether or not we will help the Abraham Fund distribute it," Braverman spokesman David Erez told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "We have worked closely with the Abraham Fund and other coexistence organizations in the past and we hope to continue this work," Erez said. Mohammad Darawshe, co-director of the Abraham Fund, told the Post that the new initiative, which he hopes to have to Braverman to give out in the next few weeks, would "serve as a tool for government officials in their decision-making process about the Arab minority." "They will no longer be able to use the excuse that they don't understand the Arab minority," said Darawshe. The report is a historical overview of Israeli-Arab identity. It includes a study of the political institutions and development of the community as well as an analysis of its social issues and economic situation. The document also provides an analysis of government decisions that have affected the Israeli-Arab community over the past 20 years. The packet contains a list of NGOs active in the community and another of organizations working on coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. The publishing of the packet was announced during a field visit to the Sharikat Haya (Life Partners) program, a major initiative of the Abraham Fund that is designed to "encourage the integration of Arab women in the Israeli workforce." Sharikat Haya was founded last year with 75 participants from the northern communities of Shaghur (formed in 2003 with the merger of three local councils - Majd el-Kurum, Deir al-Asad and Bueina), Sakhnin, Nahf and Reina. Currently, there are 120 women enrolled in the program, which strives to "strengthen the status of Arab women" by providing job training and classes in computers and workplace level Hebrew. According to the Abraham Fund, "Arab women in Israel face double discrimination; as part of the Arab minority they face neglect and discrimination at the hands of the Israeli establishment and Jewish Israeli society; as women, they suffer the discrimination of the patriarchal community in which they live, in which 'a woman's place is in the home' and external employment is often actively discouraged." The program limits itself to applicants who are married, divorced or widowed, and who have no university education and have never been employed. "We are trying to target the sector of society most in need," Darawshe explained, adding that only 14 percent of married Arab women work outside the home. According to Darawshe, Arab women with university degrees have much less of an issue finding employment than other Arab women. "In Israel, the percentage of female Arab students is higher than the percentage of male Arab students, which isn't the same anywhere else in the world," he said. "The issue of education has become more significant for Arab women in the last few years." Darawshe said the crux of the issue was that "Arab women want to work. The problem is not in the lack of demand, but in the lack of supply of jobs. The issue of a cultural barrier is a small issue compared to the lack of jobs." Out of the pilot group of 70 women, 40 have found employment, and "we're not giving up on any of them," Darawshe said. In a sit down session at the Bane Community Center in Shaghur, participant Fatima Ghani described how the program has affected her and her family: "The project changed me personally, as well as my relationships," she said passionately. "I have a job at a daycare center now. In the morning I am with my children and in the afternoon I go to work." Ghani has passed on the skills she learned in the classes down to her daughters who are now entering the working world. "I taught them how to prepare a CV and how to deal with interviews," she said. The women involved in the program are dedicated to seeing it succeed. Nadia, the coordinator for Life Partners in Nahf, said that at a study day she ran a few months ago, 350 women came out. "There was social pressure to come to the event," she said. "The women felt that this is our community and our day. They wanted it to succeed."