The Prime Minister's Office launched a campaign on Sunday to encourage Israeli employers to hire trained non-Jewish applicants. The campaign was the brainchild of the office's Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
A poll conducted among employers found that the main reasons non-Jews were not hired involved prejudice and discrimination. Of all the employers polled, 22% said outright that they discriminated against potential employees from the Arab sector, while 25% held prejudiced views of non-Jewish job candidates.
The government has been practicing what it preaches for some time now. A growing number of Israeli schools have been hiring Arab teachers to teach Arabic. Educators say that the move is not just meant to boost an understanding of Arabic among Israeli youths, but also something they hope will break down barriers in a society where Jewish and Arab citizens have little day-to-day interaction and often view each other with suspicion.
"It is very important to get past the stigmas. We have a chance to get closer," said Shlomit Vizel, principal of the Tidhar elementary school in Yokneam, a picturesque town in the rolling hills of Israel's north.
In a country where 20 percent of the citizens are Arab, enlisting native Arabic speakers for the classroom would seem obvious. But a mix of politics and cultural differences over the decades have left Israeli students overwhelmingly separated between Jewish and Arab educational systems. With few exceptions, Jewish teachers teach Jewish students, and Arab teachers teach Arab students.
Israeli Arabs, unlike their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hold full citizenship rights but often face discrimination in housing and employment. The Jewish majority often views Israeli Arabs with suspicion, citing their frequent identification with the Palestinians and anti-Israel statements by political leaders.