Israel

As a country of immigrants, it is very difficult to describe the youth situation. As a modern country we have all the European problems of unemployment, youth delinquency, drugs, and xenophobia. Even more, we have to deal with a geo-political reality that has to lead to understanding and peace with our neighbours. So we are facing huge problems that we are trying to tackle through educational programmes.

Poor young people do not know how to survive. Rich young people do not know what to live for. The social gap is growing, as well as poverty is rampant. This influences first of all the young, as unemployment is over 10%. Among young Arabs it is over 13%. Young Jews have to go to the army, to fight against the Palestinian people. Young Arabs are looked as a fifth column, while they just wish to integrate on the basis of respect.

At the end of 2001 we had 2.2 million children from 0-17 years; 1.5 million being Jews and 0.6 million Arabs (Moslems, Christians and Druze). In 2002, 139 thousand children were born.

There are over one million Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel. Their dismal situation stems mainly from the 1948 war and exodus, and subsequent state policies of discrimination and displacement. In the context of a Jewish state and with the overall economic, social and political marginalisation, many young Arabs do not receive the resources, skills and information to actively improve their situation. According to Israel’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2002 52% of Arab children under 18 in Israel were living below the poverty line. There is an unequal allocation of resources for Arab education compared to the Jewish population. In addition, there is a noticeable absence of formal and informal programmes designed to enhance cultural identity.

Young people in Israel are a different group of people. Most of us do not have the same background. In general only about 60% of youth join the army at the age of 18. Most Israelis start their adult life at the age of 27 or 28. They tend to stay at university longer. Some of them have to do military training experience, however they need to get away from everything. The challenge of Israel in respect to its younger population is finding a joint experience and anticipation for a better future. The strengths of Israeli society depend on that.

Given the volatile situation facing Israel today, it is of vital importance for youths to be exposed to organisations espousing tolerance, mutual understanding and respect. Equally, our youth must know that there are partner organisations in neighbouring countries that are eager to promote a peaceful and sustainable dialogue. Our youths are presently being raised in an atmosphere of continued trauma and confusion. Many are eager to take an active part in changing the everyday reality they are living in and stopping the violence and injustices that they are witnessing; they yearn to make a difference. Others are too often filled with sadness and fear, scarred by loss, to open their minds to dialogue. Hence the dire need for youth to be exposed to the activities of organisations such as YIFC so that they will be mindful to the fact that only through mutual respect and understanding for human life and values can their reality change and become a brighter and more peaceful one. Our organisation was established in order to fill a vacuum which exists in Israeli society. There is currently no well functioning youth organisation that manages to design and execute projects on a medium or large scale. We therefore envisage the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation as an organisation that will perform a crucial role in Israeli society – allowing young Israeli activists to truly contribute to Israeli society in particular and to the surrounding region in general. It is imperative for our youth to be empowered and believe in their ability to affect and own their own futures. This represents yet another reason that YIFC’s activities and this encounter hold such great potential for all those involved in the Euro-Med Process.

There are over one million Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel, over a fifth of the country’s population. The Arab-Palestinian community is comparatively young within Israel as a whole, with 49% between the ages of 5 and 24. It is also the poorest and most marginalised political community in Israel. This dismal situation stems mainly from the 1948 war and exodus, and subsequent state policies of discrimination and displacement. Indeed, according to Israel’s National Bureau of Statistics in 2002, 52% of Arab children under 18 in Israel live below the poverty line. Official data points to a high percentage of unemployment among the Arab population, and increased criminal behaviour and drug use. The problem is also highlighted by the fact that 40% of Arab students in Israel drop out before they finish high school, and only 30% of Arab youth pass their matriculation exams, a requirement for higher education. Youths also face a complex identity crisis between their Palestinian culture and Israeli citizenship. Also in many communities such as those in the Negev, the young people face a conflict between traditional Arab society and modernisation.

If what makes a young person young in spirit is his open mind and freethinking, then maybe being a youth in Israel today is not being youth at all. Israeli society is in need of a wide process of demilitarisation in order for it to create space for these characters. In the past four years of Palestinian resistance and Israel’s re-occupation of the territories the obstacles that young people are facing are increasing. From early childhood a Jewish-Israeli is put into an educational process of creating a new generation of soldiers, and the situation of the Palestinian-Israeli citizen youth is even more complicated. They are educated in the same educational system that does not give them the space to create their identity neither personally nor culturally on a national level. But for both groups the conflict is everywhere, sometimes in the fear and absence of personal security, most of the time it exists in the constant racist buzzing arising from hearing people talking about Arabs and seeing violent graffiti on bus stops. However, this situation forces Israeli youth to make hard decisions. Most of the young people do not question what they were taught, but a small yet growing group of Israeli youth is, and their voice will eventually be stronger than the sirens of war.

The Association of Forty handles people from unrecognised villages. They suffer from the lack of infrastructured facilities and from discrimination. In most of the villages you cannot find water, electricity, and schools. Due to this situation they get a lot of disadvantages and the possibility to reach a standard of living like other peoples in the country is minimal. To have the same opportunities they need a helping hand.

The situation of young people in Israel is very complex. There are the common problems of young people: a difficulty in family, drugs, integration, etc. But the real problem is that the situation is not homogeneous. There is no balance between young people that belong to upper society and another part that belongs to a lower one. For this reason the possibilities in every sphere (study, work, etc.) are different. The situation is complicated by ethnic and religious (Jewish, Islam, Druze, Christian) differences. Sometimes there are problems of discrimination especially with young people that are not able to integrate in the society where they live.

We believe that peace is not only a signature of leaders. It is a youth’s partnership exchanging information and details. We have for many years worked with the new generation who is the leader of the future. If we have a good partnership between Europe and Middle Eastern countries then we will have a good generation for sure.

I do not think that you can define what Israeli youth is. Classes, different political ideologies, social economic gaps, etc. affect them. The youth I work with is a new generation. They are more open to know and accept the other human beings. I think the new generation needs empowerment and support in order to get out the segregation that the Israeli institution and media surrounded them by.

I am a Palestinian who is also a citizen of Israel, and as part of youth we suffer continuous discrimination as a national minority in Israel. The Palestinian youth is a growing part in the struggle to maintain our identity and achieve our historical rights. This happens in hard conditions such as discrimination in different fields such as the education system and higher education; and social-economic backgrounds. Among us there are pluralistic political frames.

Youth in Israel today are facing many challenges. On top of the normal teenage problems here they have to deal also with the security situation and the worsening economy. There are also built-up tensions between different ethnic groups, from new immigrants/old timers, Jews/non-Jews, religious/secular, etc. All of this has in return increased the importance of community youth workers such as ourselves. Youth needs somewhere to turn to and is searching for answers to difficult questions to which there are no logical answers. We help them work through these issues and others, to face them and build better solutions. Some of the past successful projects have brought about better relations between the ethnic groups worked with, and therefore we hope will also improve the future of this youth.

The problems young people face in my country are similar to those in any other Western society. These include crime, drugs, drinking problems, quitting school, new immigrants, economic gaps, and lack of sufficient government budget to support young people. The main way to solve some of the problems besides increasing the budget would be to use volunteers.

Israel is a very diverse country. Youth in Israel is divided into two major groups; Jewish and Palestinian/Arab. Both groups have few things in common, but both of them have very limited influence on the Israeli public discourse or decision-making. The Palestinian Arab youth citizens of Israel are doubly marginalised. About 60% of them live under the poverty line, having limited access to higher education, facing a severe problem of unemployment and having a very limited state budget allocation for youth programmes. On the other hand, some of the Jewish youth groups found in the developing towns and periphery face some kind of similar conditions that the Arab youth encounter. In the past years and through the Euro-Med Youth Programme, with the help of some youth workers and some good activities, programmes have developed. However, some more investment in programme development, capacity building and networking is needed to expand and enrich this work for the benefit of all youth.

What I feel about the situation of young people is that they are fed up of the entire situation, i.e. young people are tired of even thinking about the situation that seems like it will never end. This is due to the endless fighting and the feeling that there is no partner on the other side. It is not that people do not want peace, but they feel it is an impossible mission. I think that the main goal is to bring back hope and the aspiration to peace and to make it like something reachable. This could be achieved by showing examples of coexistence.

Israeli youth comes from different backgrounds, different communities and different cultures. Therefore one of the major assets is to educate them about the awareness in the community, to take part in the different community activities. There are different organisations, besides school, whose agenda is to educate them with humanitarian and social values. On the fringe there are youths with problems, and we try hard to educate them and make their life easier.

Young people in my country have three forces that influence their life, which are their home or parents’ culture, globalisation, and politics and political problems that my country is facing. I do not want to talk about politics because I am sure that the new world is doing a good job but I want to talk about the other two factors. As you all know globalisation is giving us big changes in our life, one of which is that young people around the world are becoming more and more similar to each other in dresses, hair cuts, hobbies and so on. In my country there are two nations and a lot of cultural differences, even in the same nation: Arabs and Jews. There are Jews that lately came from the former Soviet Union. Arabs and Jews, some are religious, some are not. These differences are very well seen in my country. The economic situation as in the whole world is not very good so this affects more young people in finding a job before or after going to university and in other aspects. That is it in general.

Speaking about youth in Israel in a single way is impossible. Israel is a mixed country in all senses. The people in Israel come from 100 different countries, and almost 90 languages are spoken. Obviously youth is raised in many ways. Young people in Israel live side by side with different/opposite cultures, and paradoxically sometimes this statement is completely false. We do have uniform contexts too. For instance we have Jewish kids living in Arab groups, Bedouins in Druze villages, Ethiopians and Russians (these since the last 10 years), or kids born in radical religious families facing each other, and so on. As I said, it is almost impossible to grow in a culturally uniform context. In Israel, cities and villages are very different from North to South, the effect shows itself everyday. In a village of Southern Israel, young people sometimes just cannot reach the city; meanwhile the globalisation creates links to connect each other. For example the reaction to dressing or to the circulation of information through the Internet can be rough. And tradition sometimes tries to choke the change. The lack of possible involvement in any occupation and study can develop into lack of socialisation, even because there could be no physical place to do it. They also do not know how to spend their free time. The consequences are so many. Furthermore it is difficult for young people to find themselves a social description, or simply a category to fit in. In the poorest parts of the country the lack of welfare creates a void. It is an emptiness of perspective, which gives the feeling of a cyclical life with no real evolution. We also have an issue with the army. In Israel everyone spends some years in the army, 2 for men and 3 for women. Each of them can be called back to service for a month every year until they are 40. However not all citizens get involved in the army in the same way. Arabs for example started to go only recently. This situation creates unbalanced feelings in the population.

An initiative of Baladna, the association for Arab Youth, implemented by MADA Arab Centre for applied research, declared that the first phone survey for Arab youth stated that ¼ of Arab youth consider emigrating from Israel. 44% of Arab youth consider themselves non-religious and 75% of male Arab youth support relationships before marriage. We are pleased to publish the results of the first phone survey specifically aimed at Arab youth aged 14′“18 in Israel. The 466 individuals surveyed provided a representative sample reflecting the different levels of Arab society. They came from a cross section of income groups, urban and rural communities across Israel and included all three of the major religions: Druze, Muslims and Christians. The survey is a unique initiative in that it is the first such survey directly aimed the Arab youth of Israel. It is also the first to address the political and social values of Arab youth and to gain insight into their needs, free-time activities and available resources. Political Values: When asked whether they thought Israel is a democracy, 34.8% replied yes compared with 35% who believed it is not. 68.8% said that discrimination against Arabs exists in Israel. 23.7% consider emigrating from Israel as an option. Role models: When asked who their favourite public figure was, 58% mentioned Arab personalities, 30% were people from outside the Arab world and Israel, 7% were local Arabs and 4% were Jewish Israelis. Sports and Arts celebrities dominated youths’ choice for favourite public figures. 55% chose celebrities from the arts world such as musicians and actors, 15% chose sports personalities, 12% were cultural figures, 11% political and 6% were religious figures. Social Values: 86.1% intend to continue into higher education. 45% of youth agreed with full gender equality in all areas of life, with 96.7% supporting academic equality between the sexes. Allowing females to dress as they choose was supported by 41.7% of those interviewed. 61.6% believe it to be acceptable for males and females to form pre-marital relationships. Free time activities: 91.7% of youth use computers and 64.8% have some kind of access to the Internet. 39.2% possess an e-mail account. 59.2% of youth have mobile phones. Gender differences: There were also some marked differences between the answers of male and female youth concerning their free time activities and resources available to them. For example on average girls spend 16.4 hours doing homework a week compared with an average of 13.4 hours for boys. When asked how much time they spend doing chores at home on average boys spent 5 hours a week in contrast to 11 hours for girls. Boys spent 8.2 hours a week visiting and hosting friends, with girls only visiting and hosting friends for 5.6%. An indication of how girls and boys receive different levels of investment from their parents, was the fact that a greater percentage of boys have a personal computer and a mobile telephone. These are just some of the results in brief to give you a glimpse into the world of Arab youth in Israel. For a more in-depth version of the survey findings you will have to wait until the end of May. At this time Baladna and MADA will publish full results from the survey complete with comments from the surveyors and various analyses of the results carried out by prominent academics. I would like to extend my appreciation to the work of MADA in conducting this survey to a high professional standard. The survey is the first of its kind and acts as a compass to guide us in our youth work so that we can best understand their values, needs and available resources. Though highly useful and informative this is only the first step and we plan to initiate research into other issues and aspects of youth life, thus raising the voice of Arab youth and placing youth issues on top of the Agenda.

Young Israelis today are disempowered. This is true in both the political and the social fields. Their voice is not heard since the young guards of the political parties are not only bankrupt but also busy with internal bickering, and youth movements are decidedly non-partisan and non-political. Therefore, young Israelis have no way of expressing their opinion and influencing the political and social reality in Israel and in the region, in spite of their great numbers in society. Especially after 2-3 years of military service young Israelis are eager to change reality with their Arab neighbours and need an appropriate platform.

Today Palestinian youth needs to establish and enforce their contacts abroad for intercultural exchanges and to promote democracy within the Palestinian youths. The New Moriscos Association (NMA) sees a need to provide some skills to Palestinian young people of the 48 borders as well to encourage real dialogue with young Mediterraneans in order to continue to promote peace in the region.

According to Mossawa Centre’s recent research, approximately 57% of Arab youth in Israel are living in poverty. This impoverishment, and daily socio-economic stress, severely limits Arab youth’s ability to be enriched with even local, let alone international non-formal educational opportunities. These opportunities are few and far between, further contributing to the overall desperation felt among the Arab community, transferred from generation to generation. In light of the State’s lack of commitment to the Arab community including its children, non-governmental institutions and international institutions are vital players for the contribution to their overall well-being. Local youth initiatives like Scout groups are even struggling to sustain their programming. The situation is particularly desperate in Bedouin unrecognised villages in the Negev where communities are living without basic municipal services like electricity and running water. Small children in many cases must walk to school due to the lack of transportation because only a handful of primary educational institutions exist in these villages, and a high school. Educators are often under-qualified and from outside the community.

Despite comprising approximately 20% of the population, Arab citizens of Israel are the most marginalised in the country, and those suffering the most from this discrimination are youth, making up about 1/2 of this minority of over 1 million. Over 2/3 of Arab children in Israel subsist below the poverty line and yet they have to build their future in the midst of rampant budgetary inequality impacting their economic, social and political opportunities. For example, Arab schools are notoriously under-funded. This is reflected in the high school dropout rates of 40% and a mere 1/3 of Arab youth passing matriculation exams allowing entrance into higher education. The ultimate result of unemployment, crime and drug abuse is a recipe for social breakdown, with inevitable implications for the wider population. Furthermore, as the curriculum of Arab public schools is focused on the Jews rather than the thousands of years of Arab history, the distinct identity of Arabs in Israel is gravely neglected. They are made to feel like foreigners in their own land. This, combined with the general lack of voice in the Israeli public sphere, gives rise to the frustration of young Arab citizens, as clearly expressed in October 2000, when tens of thousands of Arab youth took to the streets and 13 Arab citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces.