• TOE Photo Blog

  • GH-IS

  • Our Facebook Page

  • Israel Website

  • Our YouTube Channel

  • Inter-Agency Task Force

  • Subscribe to Our Newsletter

  • Where We Are in the World

  • A letter from our Executive Director

Mohammad Darawshe Reading Event

Mohammad Darawshe, our Director of the Center for Equality & Shared Society, spoke at an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Reading, Pennsylvania this past week. This article talks about the event and the work we are doing at Givat Haviva.

It is time for the minority to establish itself as a political actor in Israeli decision-making

It is time for the minority to establish itself as a political actor in Israeli decision-making

by Mohammad Darawshe

Mohammad Darawshe is Director of the Center for Shared Society at Givat Haviva Institute and also served as the Co-Executive Director of the Abraham Fund. He claims that what is at stake in Israel today is not just the status of Arab citizens, but the Declaration of Independence. If current trends continue, he argues, the Zionist project itself will be derailed. It’s time for new political alliance and for the minority to enter a governing coalition. He was talking to assistant editor Samuel Nurding.

Arab citizens have expressed their position in recent polls; they accept Israel’s right to exist, they insist the Arab citizens of Israel are here to stay, and they want to join the national conversation about the nature of the state. Is Israel the state of all Israelis or is it only the state of the Jewish people? At aged 70, the same age when Israelis collect their pensions, we can’t keep calling Israel the young democracy. It is well past time for Israel to determine its proper relationship with its national minority, the Arab citizens. That means the majority accepting its Arab citizens’ true status as a national minority and establishing with it a new alliance and a new governing coalition.


Israel, as a state, looks at its Arab citizens mostly as individuals who live in the country with individual rights, and not as a collective, as the Declaration of Independence viewed Arab citizens. But we are a collective, and we should be recognised as a national minority with a package of collective rights – we already have recognition of the Arabic language as an official language, exemption from military service, a parallel but separate Arab education system, and so on. And yet some are seeking to take the country in the opposite direction. The nationality bill currently being pushed through the Knesset seeks to reduce the collective status of Arab citizens to a more marginal and minor status. This is what we face after 70 years of contribution and citizenship!
More: the creation of the State of Israel was supposed to be accompanied by the creation of the Palestinian state, which did not happen. So instead of Israel’s Arabs celebrating Israel’s independence at aged 70, some are asking where is the missing half of the UN’s formula of 1947 – the independent Palestinian state that was to live in peace next to Israel. We feel further away from that state today than we were 70 years ago.
Of course, there are things to celebrate, from citizenship to the economic development of the state in general and of the Arab community specifically, as well as the improvements in education that mean the Arab community now makes up more than 16 per cent of the student population at universities and 23 per cent of the doctors in Israel’s hospitals. More: the government’s ‘922’ economic plan seeks to create an economic revolution in the Arab community over the next five years, reducing poverty and social inequality and starting to significantly integrate Arab citizens into certain sectors, from the police to the private sector, and civil service. But we are still fighting to change our status from an extension of the enemy, i.e. the Arab world surrounding Israel, to that of legitimate and equal citizens.
I am most proud to have been a part of the introduction of programmes over the last 15 years, which have challenged the separation that exists between Arabs and Jews in Israel. One is the cross-sector teacher programme, which has placed Arab teachers in Jewish schools and Jewish teachers in Arab schools. This is creating a slow revolution. Today we have 850 out of 6,000 schools participating in this programme. The project is endorsed by the Minister of Education and the government is paying the teachers. This is a huge accomplishment. It took us a few years to convince the Ministry of Education to act as a full partner and not rely solely on non-governmental organisations. Once the government took on the salaries it made the programme mainstream and much wider in scope.


The government is trying to outsmart the democratic nature of the state by creating a hierarchy between ‘Jewish’ and ‘democratic’. Until 2009 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took power, Israel saw itself as a Jewish and a democratic state: two equal values. Even the Supreme Court in the past related to them as two equal values, insisting that neither should come at the expense of the other, and if this should ever come about, then the democratic nature must trump the Jewish character of the state. But today we have the Minister of Justice, who is supposed to protect the democratic nature of the state, saying that in order to maintain the Jewish identity of the state we should allow ourselves to harm human and civil rights. This is not the state we were promised by the Declaration of Independence.
Think of it from the point of view of the minority. If the two values are equal then the status of an Arab citizen is safe. If one is given preference, the Jewish over the democratic, then this raises the spectre of ours being a second class status. There have been a number of laws passed that put under question the democratic nature of Israel. We feel their impact. For example, the Acceptance Committees bill grants the power to more than 900 small Jewish towns to form acceptance committees to determine who can buy, rent or lease properties in these towns.
What is at stake is not just the status of Arab citizens, but of the Declaration of Independence. If current trends continue the Zionist project will be derailed. The original intention, I believe, was for Israel to be a democratic state and a liberal democracy and I still want to work with Israelis who maintain that approach. But unfortunately we are in a battle, a non-violent battle, but a battle, and we – Jews and Arabs who hold fast to the original vision – are losing ground, radical nationalists are winning.
You see, we are not leaving. Arab citizens were placed under military rule between 1948 and 1966. Whatever happens next, we will never abandon our homeland. Arab students who leave to gain their medicine or law degrees in Europe end up coming back to Israel. The sense of belonging and homeland is very strong in the Arab community. Where would we go? To neighbouring Arab countries to become refugees there? Why should I doom my children and grandchildren to be refugees for the next 70 or 700 years?


What we need to do is to build a strong coalition with Israeli-Jewish democratic forces to help them regain power. As we’re losing today we can win tomorrow. I do not mean that we, the Arab citizens win over Jewish citizens. I mean we, democratic citizens of this state, win together. Many things could be repaired if we had a government that cared more about the democratic nature of the state and less about the Jewish character of the state. There is every chance to reverse the situation through coalition-building, but what is happening instead is that many Arab politicians are surrendering to the right-wing by saying, in despair, ‘there is nowhere to find a middle ground’. So they start calling for the elimination of the Jewish nature of the state and propose instead a state of its citizens. This identity and narrative rhetoric only harms the relations between the two populations.
This trend within the Arab community is not going to help in finding a common ground, a ground on which to build a coalition, which is the strategy that the Arab community should follow. The Arab community, as polls show, is a very rational and pragmatic population, and it does not want to encourage a polarisation in Israeli politics. And I believe that the Israeli Jewish community is not at all 100 per cent behind this current government. The ‘Right bloc’ enjoys the support of about 55 per cent of the Israeli Jewish public, so it would only take approximately 10 per cent of them to return to sanity, which is very likely. Don’t forget, this right-wing government has supported measures of economic integration and that tells us that even the right-wing is not all far right-wing. Mainly because it also contains centrist parties like Kulanu, so even this coalition is far from being uniform.
The key problem is that we, the Arab citizens, have not established ourselves as political actors in Israeli decision-making. We are still marginal and that marginalisation comes from not knowing how to create proper partnerships and coalitions. If we increase our participation rate in Israeli elections, and we have an arm within our political groups that can engage in coalition-building in the Knesset, this will change our political role in the country, and will result with more serious progress.
We need a serious conversation about rights and responsibilities. We just completed a programme called ‘the road map for a shared society’. Most Arabs are not ready for military service yet; this is something that can be negotiated only after Israel ends its enemy relationship with its Palestinian neighbours. As long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is alive we should take the idea of military service for Arabs off the table. The same way as we should take issues of Israel’s identity, such as the flag and the national anthem off the table, which are not inclusive but exclusive symbols.
These are certain things about which now is not the right time to talk. Once we establish peace and security for Israel and stable borders – so we know who’s in and who’s out – and once we know which borders we need to defend, then we can talk about it. Right now, I don’t know which borders Israel has.
At 70, Israel still does not have a constitution that determines its relations with its Arab citizens. Once I know my status constitutionally, then I’m willing to talk about other issues. The Declaration of Independence has the right kind of notion but it does not have a legal standing, which means we cannot hold the institutions liable for not implementing the notion at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. The Knesset determines what the constitution is, the sovereign body in the country, and that’s where dialogue concerning Israeli-Arab citizens’ legal status should begin. But meanwhile dialogue can start at the community level, and on campuses.

Introducing the Givat Haviva International School!

Announcing the launch of The Givat Haviva International School (GHIS)
A Two-year Program in Israel leading to an International Baccalaureate Diploma
Beginning in fall of 2018, Givat Haviva will enroll an inaugural class of fifty students, twenty-five international, and twenty-five Arab and Jewish Israeli students between the ages of 15 and 18. The main language of the school is English, and the school has International Baccalaureate status.

We cordially invite you and your family to consider this exceptional opportunity to pursue academic studies in Israel while developing leadership skills for creating positive change in the Middle East and internationally.

We also invite you to help in spreading the word about the application process. Can you think of families who would be interested in sending their children to study at GHIS? Are you connected to any organizations who work with youth and can help us spread the news about the new school?

The idea is to build a community of new global leaders using the experience that we have gained at Givat Haviva over close to seventy years. Students need to be young people who want to be in an English-speaking international environment; who want to 'change the world'; who can be leaders of tomorrow; and who seek an excellent academic program. The more diverse, the better.

GHIS is a two-year boarding school for Israeli and international students aged 15 to 18, who will live and learn together at Givat Haviva.

Vision : To develop a vibrant and diverse community of learners who strive to achieve positive social impact and change towards a just and shared society and a peaceful world.

Mission : GHIS seeks to develop a network of committed young leaders to work together towards a shared, sustainable and inclusive society in the Middle East and globally.

Why Now – what’s the problem?

GHIS is tackling the most pressing challenge of our time - social polarization - focusing on cooperation rather than confrontation, shared societies before nationalization. At a time when global leaders are on paths of isolationism and separation, we need global leaders orientated towards collaboration and shared solutions.

A Solution?

Against this background, Givat Haviva has for decades been quietly and successfully weaving a fabric of shared society from the ground up. GHIS will prioritize specialist training in Leadership and Conflict Resolution using the recognized capabilities of Givat Haviva, winner of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education. A broad education delivered by the International Baccalaureate (IB) will result in an international high school whose alumni have skills to facilitate real change in their home communities. We aim for 50% be Arabs and Jews from Israel and the Palestinian Authority and 50% international, including student pairs from different sides of conflict regions.

The Uniqueness of GHIS

GHIS is in Israel, one of the most exciting countries and spiritual center of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is both a setting for the Bible and a modern ‘start-up’ nation. Based at Givat Haviva, a rural, green campus located in one of the most diverse region of Israel, GHIS students will benefit from decades of intercultural understanding, and will become alumni of a 70-year-old center of peace with a network of international connections.

The core curriculum will be delivered by the internationally recognized IB program offering a broad and complete education. Leadership, Conflict Resolution and Social Entrepreneurship will be central as well as a respect for the Arts and training in humanitarian relief. Students will live and learn together, planning social activities with peers from as many as 30 countries. They will have the experience of becoming a member of a ‘host’ family for a two-year period. GHIS is a school which puts values before profit, whose primary motivation is to equip an international class of potential leaders with the requisite skills to make a positive impact on this new and dangerous geo-political reality of 2018.

What will emerge?  
Alumni of effective leaders able to address the underlying causes of social division at its root. They will be a diverse group, broadly educated and skilled in leadership and conflict resolution techniques for their academic, communal and professional lives post-GHIS.

We invite you to become part of this exciting journey.

Breaking New Ground, The Roadmap for a Shared Society

Over the past two years, Givat Haviva has worked with the Israeli government, civil society organizations, the media the academic community and hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens to create Israel’s first-ever "Strategic Master Plan" on shared society: The Roadmap for a Shared Society. The Roadmap represents a “people’s statement” on how to address the country’s most pressing issues: the reconciliation of divided Jewish and Arab societies, and the social/economic empowerment of Arab citizens.

70 Arab and Jewish authorities cooperated on the generation of key recommendations in the areas of education, economic development, government and governance, land use, cultural representation and restorative processes.

The recommendations were reviewed by over 160,000 Israeli citizens, and 60 concrete proposals were presented to Israel’s Knesset this past December in a conference sponsored by the Knesset Coalition for Shared Living.

This event signals Givat Haviva’s emergence as Israel’s pre-eminent thought leader on shared society. The Roadmap offers Americans an invaluable view into what shared society looks like to the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. We will soon announce the availability of an English translation of the Roadmap document as presented in the Knesset.

So what’s next? A consortium of NGOs are now working together to begin to chart the course for implementation of these ambitious proposals. Givat Haviva Educational Foundation is currently organizing live educational events throughout the US featuring key Israeli organizers of the Roadmap process who will share about what has already happened – and where these efforts are heading.

Earlier this month, Mohammad Darawshe, Director of Givat Haviva’s Center for Equality and Shared Society, discussed the Roadmap at the home of board member Claude Ghez in New York City.

"Instead of assuming the continuation of the problematic and discriminatory “status quo” between us and Arabs, it is possible and feasible to propose new directions, allowing the Arab society in Israel full partnership in the decision-making process, and full political and professional representation, to the benefit of the whole of Israeli populace...

"...The Roadmap is shelf-ready for government officials in all the relevant ministries and offices. Violent protesters in Wadi Ara are a small and dangerous minority. The vast majority of Arab society needs a different and honest conversation, not racist generalizations to escalate alienation and incite the region."

Celebrating the Successes of our Fifth Annual Shared Society Conference

Givat Haviva's fifth Annual Shared Society Conference on March 30th, 2017 was a highly informative, inspiring and memorable day on our beautiful campus. The day was packed full of rousing speeches, exciting cultural performances, thought-provoking panels, and the opportunity to meet and connect with amazing people from all over the world who are working for an equal and shared society in Israel.

The focus of this year's Conference was to present our Roadmap for a Shared Society, a project made possible by the European Union with the goal of engaging 70 Jewish and Arab experts representing a broad spectrum of Israeli society to create a practical policy paper for the promotion of a shared society in Israel. The Conference served as a platform for the presentation of over 100 Recommendations in five distinct fields: Governance, Culture, Education, Economic Development and Land Use.

We also opened up the next phase of the program during the Conference - public engagement. This process involves a series of public town hall meetings, online engagement through Ynet, Israel's largest and most popular news and content website, and Bokra, Israel's leading Arabic online news source. The purpose of this outreach is to not only raise awareness of the recommendations and increase public support, but also to generate public feedback which will help formulate priorities within the recommendations.