Roughly 21% of Israels more than eight million
citizens are Arabs. The vast majority of the Israeli Arabs - 81% - are Muslims.
Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the
few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs currently
hold ten seats in the Knesset.
Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in
Israel. At the time of Israels founding, only one Arab high school
was operating, today, there are hundreds of Arab schools. Most Arabs
attend these schools.
The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab
citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to
serve in the Israeli army. This was to spare Arab citizens the need
to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, many Arabs have
volunteered for military duty and the Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the draft.
Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews
and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military.
Veterans qualify for many benefits and jobs not available to
non-veterans. Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process.
On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage obtaining some jobs
during the years Israelis are in the military. In addition,
industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated
by Israeli Arabs.
While there is no institutional segregation, Jews
and Arabs have chosen to live separately in all but a handful of
cities. Israelis all recognize that Arab villages have historically
received less funding than Jewish areas and this has affected the
quality of Arab schools, infrastructure and social services. Arabs
are also underrepresented in higher education and most industries.
Israeli Jews and Arabs have surprisingly little
contact with each other. Most young people study at different
elementary and secondary schools and may not come into contact with
one another until college; by then, many preconceived opinions have
been formed. This lack of interaction exacerbates tensions between
the two communities.
Israeli Arabs also face their own conflicts as
Palestinians in a Jewish state. While identifying with the
Palestinian people and disputing Israel's identification as a Jewish
state, they see their future tied to Israel. They have adopted Hebrew
as a second language and Israeli culture as an extra layer in their
lives. At the same time, they strive to attain a higher degree of
participation in national life, greater integration into the economy
and more benefits for their own towns and villages.
Although Israeli Arabs have occasionally been
involved in terrorist activities, they have generally behaved as
loyal citizens. During Israels wars, none engaged in acts of
sabotage or disloyalty. In some instances, Arabs volunteered to take
over civilian functions for reservists.
There are twenty employment centres established around Israel to help the Arab, Druze, and Circassian minorities find employment and receive assistance. According to the Israeli Ministry of the Economy statistics for 2015, 8,000 new Arab, Druze, and Circassian participants sought help or assistance from these employment centres. In total these centres have helped 13,600 members of Israeli minority groups find employment, and have provided assistance for more than 24,000 individuals. Approximately 68% of candidates who have come into the employment centres since they were established in 2012 have found jobs.