Activity: Relating To Minorities

Israel And Her Arabs

The aim of this activity is to examine the theoretical issue of Jewish behavior towards minorities in Israel, and the practical issue of Israel’s Arab minority.

  • Open by explaining to the group that Jews have lived as a minority under somebody else’s sovereignty for the last two thousand years. Indicate that Jews have often suffered as a minority, but have often done well as a respected minority with guaranteed rights. Ask the class to briefly define - on a scale of one (atrocious) to ten (excellent) - what they think the situation of the Jewish community in their country is today. Let each of them sign their name on the board next to the relevant number on a scale drawn from one to ten. Now explain that in Israel, for the first time in thousands of years, Jews are a majority and have to decide how to relate to non-Jewish minorities.
  • Ask the members of the class whether there are only Jews inside Israel and, if there are not just Jews, who the rest of the population is. Proceed to the issue of Israeli Arabs and indicate that almost one in every five citizens of the State of Israel is an Arab. Ensure that the class can distinguish between Arab citizens of Israel (Israeli Arabs) and other Arabs (including Palestinian residents of the territories). Stress that, in this exercise, you are only talking about Israeli Arabs.
  • Ask the group if, as Jews, there are any guidelines as to how non-Jews should be treated within the framework of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel? Explain that there are guidelines in the Torah. Introduce them to the following three pieces from the Torah:

    After you enter the land that I am giving you as a home… the community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you. (). This is a lasting ordinance ( ) for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord. The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.
    Bamidbar ch. 15 vv. 1, 15-16

    I charged the judges at that time: hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien ( ). Do not show partiality in judgment.
    Devarim ch. 1 vv. 16-17

    When an alien ( )lives with you in the land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born ( ). Love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
    Vayikra ch. 19 vv. 33-34

  • Divide the class into pairs ask them to try to understand the three quotes. Do they consider these ideas relevant to the situation in a modern Jewish state? Yes? No? Why or why not?
  • Ask the same pairs to write a sentence or two (no more) about the situation of Arabs inside Israel over the last fifty years, or about their situation today.
  • Collect the ideas from each pair; list them and integrate them into a brief factual presentation on the situation of Israeli Arabs, drawing on the ‘Ten Point Plan’ given above. Use as much of the information as you think will be helpful to your students, enough to give them a basis from which to proceed with the activity.
  • Now hand out the article by Smooha. Work through it as a group, trying to understand what he is saying about the way in which the Zionist state works for or against its Arab citizens.

    We now suggest two possibilities for continuing: you may want to use them both or either one of them individually. If you use them both, we suggest doing them in the order that we give them here.


  • Divide the class into groups of five or six. They must take the article by Smooha and any quotes that they have received in previous activities from the Declaration of Independence, the Law of Return or Ben Gurion’s speech to the Knesset in the vote on the Law of Return. As a group they should attempt to answer the following question:


  • Let each group report back to the whole class and discuss the conclusions they have reached.



  • Hand out the lyrics of HaTikvah, the Israeli national anthem.

As long as in his heart inwardly
The soul of a Jew is beating,
And towards the East
An eye looks towards Zion,
Our hope is not yet lost
The hope of two thousand years
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Naftali Herz Imber

  • Discuss with the group how they think Israeli Arabs feel about the song, which - of course - as the Israeli anthem represents their official national anthem too. Make a list of words that, in the group’s opinion, probably define the Arabs’ attitude towards the song.
  • Now discuss the following question with the group:

    In the light of the fact that the hatikvah is a jewish/zionist anthem whose words are …[fill in the blanks according to the list that the group has made] to almost twenty per cent of the population, would you like to see the anthem changed to something acceptable to the whole population?

  • Discuss this issue, which has been raised in some Israeli circles. How does the group feel about the suggestion? What reasons, for and against, are there for this suggestion?




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11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0