Israel – An Apartheid State?

Israel – An Apartheid State?

© David Burton 2016

Druze Policeman Funeral

     The closet anti-Semites, bigots and Jew-haters of the world have tried to smear the only tolerant, democratic nation in the Mid-east as an “apartheid regime". Ask the minority groups in Israel if this is the case! Ask the same question about the other countries in the region.

     Is there discrimination in Israel? Of course there is! Ashkenazi Jews discriminate against Sephardic Jews. Orthodox Jews discriminate against secular Jews. White Jews discriminate against Black Jews. Jews discriminate against non-Jews. Israelis discriminate against Palestinians and Arabs. Oh – the reverse is also true, e.g., secular Jews discriminate against Orthodox Jews. Discrimination takes place in every country on the face of this earth – yes, even here in the United States, where there is still discrimination against Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and anyone else that is even slightly different than you! One might conclude that discrimination is part of the human condition. But, there is even discrimination in the animal kingdom. If one animal is not a member of a particular group, even though they are all of the same species, the outsider may be discriminated against. In the animal kingdom, this can take the form of exclusion, physical attacks and even killing.

     But, there is a major difference between discrimination and apartheid. As practiced in South Africa, where the term apartheid seems to have originated, apartheid was a social system in which blacks were not provided with the same political and economic rights as the whites imposing apartheid. The victims of apartheid were also forced to live separately from the dominant group. Apartheid demands segregation among the groups involved.

     The origin of the word apartheid seems be a combination of the Afrikaans’ word for "separateness" and the Dutch word "heid" part meaning "hood." Thus apartheid can be interpreted to mean "apart-hood." Apartheid in South Africa was both legal and a state policy. Apartheid in Israel is both illegal and definitely not part of state policy. As a volunteer traveler to Israel for the past decade, I can personally and emphatically state that charging Israel with being an apartheid state is an outright slander and a lie!

Minorities in Israel:

     “Israel's declaration of independence guarantees that the government will ‘uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed and sex.’ Approximately 20 percent of Israel's population, about one million people, are not Jewish, comprising primarily Arabic-speaking groups.
     "Muslim Arabs {in the late 1990's} number{ed} some 780,000, residing mainly in small towns and villages, over half in northern Israel. Bedouin Arabs belong to 30 tribes and comprise ten percent of Israel's Muslim Arab population. Living primarily in the Negev desert, they are a people struggling between an ancient way of life and the modern world. There are about 160,000 Christian Arabs who live mainly in urban areas; the majority of Christian Arabs are affiliated with the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
     "Some 80,000 Druze {in the late 1990's} live{d} in 22 villages in northern Israel. The Druze religion is not accessible to outsiders and Druze constitute a separate cultural, social and religious Arabic-speaking community. The Druze concept of taqiyya calls for complete loyalty by its adherents to the government of the country in which they reside. As such, among other things, the Druze serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
     “The Circassians are non-Arab Sunni Muslims who comprise{d} about 3,000 {in the late 1990's} people concentrated in two northern Israeli villages.
     “In keeping with Israel's democratic principles, the Arab citizens of Israel are afforded all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship.  . . .
     “Today, Israel's Arab citizens are accorded full civil and political rights, entitled to complete participation in Israeli society. They are active in Israeli social, political and civic life and enjoy representation in Israel's Parliament, foreign service and judicial system. In the 1996 Israeli elections, nine members of Israel's Arab parties were elected to the Knesset. {In 2016, that number rose to seventeen!}
     “At the same time, there do exist sizable economic and social gaps in the levels of development between Jewish and Arab societies. Israeli Arabs do face discrimination, not as a result of official policy but in practice. Israeli Jewish employers, for example, have discriminated against Arabs. On a more encouraging note, in recent years, Israeli Arabs have better mobilized themselves to lobby and fight within Israel's democratic system for what is rightfully theirs.” (Ref. 1)

Arab Israelis:

     “Muslim Arabs: Over 1.2 million people, most of whom are Sunni, reside mainly in small towns and villages, over half of them in the north of the country.
     “Bedouin Arabs: Also Muslim (estimated at approximately 250,000), belong to some 30 tribes, a majority scattered over a wide area in the South. Formerly nomadic shepherds, the Bedouin are currently in transition from a tribal social framework to a permanently settled society and are gradually entering Israel's labor force.”
     “Christian Arabs: Some 123,000, live mainly in urban areas, including Nazareth, Shfar'am, and Haifa. Although many denominations are nominally represented, the majority are affiliated with the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.” (Ref. 2)

     This past winter, I was among a group of Americans and Canadians who visited an Arab Cultural Center in the Israeli-Arab town of Umm Al Fahem, with an almost exclusively Arab population of 54,000. Women’s dress there varied – some wore very traditional Arab garb, others wore modern western style dress; some Arab women wore headscarves while others did not.

     In Umm Al Fahem, we met Said Abu Shakra, who started and runs the Umm Al Fahem Art Gallery which also serves as the Arab Cultural Center. Said told us about his background, his perspective of being an Arab Moslem citizen of Israel and his approach to bettering the lives of the Arab community in Israel. He was an Israeli police officer and an artist before starting and growing the art gallery from less than 900 square feet to its present size of more than 15,000 square feet. His idea was to use the art gallery as a cultural center to bring Jews and Arabs together to meet and discuss the Arab-Jewish situation and to develop ways to improve the conditions of the Arab communities in Israel.

     According to Said, Arabs living in Umm Al Fahem are poor and need to travel to Tel Aviv to work since there are no large industries in Umm Al Fahem where they could find work.

     Said’s efforts to bring Jews and Arabs together have been partially successful – he has gotten Arab and Jewish children working together at the gallery as have adults. Some 10,000 children now come to the gallery each year. Arab women in Umm Al Fahem have been encouraged to assert themselves through art and sculpture. The gallery in Umm Al Fahem is well known in Israel and internationally, having attracted a Yoko Ono show that drew thousands in 1999, an annual ceramics symposium, and a 2009 joint exhibition of German, Jewish and Arab artists.

     The Arab children of Umm Al Fahem are becoming well educated and several have gone on to universities in both Israel and overseas, but the new generation of Arab Moslems in Israel is becoming increasingly impatient with the inequalities that do exist.

     Another of Said’s objectives was to attract the poor of the Umm Al Fahem Arab community to come to the gallery and to raise their self-confidence. As part of the effort to get Arab women integrated into modern society, 60 women from the city were now attending ceramics classes at the gallery under the guidance of a prominent Jewish artist. The poor of Umm Al Fahem have often shied away from attending cultural events at the gallery because they felt embarrassed at not being as well dressed as visitors and dignitaries. Unfortunately, there is very little support for anything cultural from the Arab communities.

     Arab villages and towns in Israel appear to the visitor to have less municipal services than Jewish communities. This is partly due to less financial support from the national government. But, it is also partly due to the fact that Arabs pay less in municipal taxes than do their Jewish equivalents. One explanation is that Arabs feel It is disrespectful for an Arab to pay taxes to another Arab – and since the municipal administrators of Arab communities are almost always fellow Arabs, hence the lack of tax money in Arab towns and villages to pay for infrastructure and such.

     “A research study conducted in Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva finds that Jews are three times as likely to pay property taxes than Arabs . . .
     “A surprising finding is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not to blame for the Arabs’ low payment rate.
     “. . . in the Arab sector, only 18.6% of property taxes are collected, compared to 53.7% in Israel’s Jewish sector.
      - - -
     “The author {of the study} debunks what he calls two ‘myths’ regarding the low Arab payment rate: ‘It is not true that Arabs don’t pay because they feel estrangement or lack of belonging to the State,’ . . . and ‘it is similarly not true that more intense enforcement will raise the payment rate.’
      - - -
     “{The study} found that in Arab localities with higher incomes, payment of city taxes was proportionately higher. ‘Property taxes are 6.9% of the average income of an Arab family, compared with 4.6% for Jewish families,’ . . . This, despite the fact that average Jewish income is not 1.5 times higher than Arabs, but twice as high – meaning that Jewish families are charged more, in proportion with their income, than do Arabs.” (Ref. 3)

     Israel is taking steps to alleviate this problem. In early 2015, Israel announced that it would allocate additional funding to Arab-Israeli towns. The agreement calls for $229.5 million to be gradually distributed to local Arab communities to close social and economic gaps.[4]

     “They’re parliamentarians, judges, diplomats, and generals. In Jerusalem, the Star of David on Israel’s flag is no surprise in a Knesset member’s office. What seems unusual within Israel’s parliament is just two yards away: an engraved icon bearing an Islamic prayer in Arabic script. ‘I am Israeli,’ says Issawi Frej, an Arab member of the Knesset (MK). ‘I am a citizen here. I want to be here.’ . . . ‘The American people don’t understand that there are 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs who live inside Israel, and who are Israelis with rights. Americans think about the Palestinian Authority only, and no one thinks about us.’ . . . Frej . . . is one of twelve Arab MKs {as of 2013}. They and other Arabs hold prominent posts in Israel’s courts, diplomatic corps, and armed forces. While powerful Israeli Jews clearly outnumber powerful Israeli Arabs, journalists worldwide generally overlook the latter. Leaders like Frej disprove the tired, toxic rhetoric about ‘Jim Crovitz’–style conditions that Israel’s Arabs supposedly suffer at the hands of Jewish oppressors, as if Israel were Mississippi on the Mediterranean. No one can dismiss these Arab Israeli parliamentarians as window dressing. While {some} Arab MKs’ comments may rankle most Israelis and their American friends, such dissent confirms Israel’s status as an open and vibrant constitutional republic, unlike so many closed dictatorships in this chronically diseased neighborhood. Meanwhile, Salim Joubran, an Arab, has been on Israel’s 15-member Supreme Court since 2003. Abdel Rahman Zuabi also served there for a fixed term in 1999. Arab judges populate Israel’s district courts. George Kara led a three-judge panel in 2010 that convicted former president Moshe Katsav of rape. {There have been} Arab ambassadors and consuls-general for decades . . . {Israel has} two Druze ambassadors, in Norway and the Dominican Republic — respectively . . . ‘Arabs are particularly well integrated in the public-health system, with many Arab doctors holding important positions in Israel’s 24 public general hospitals and in the Ministry of Health.’ Arabs excel in Israel’s military, some even as generals. Lieutenant Colonel Magdi Mazarib is an Islamic member of Israel’s 260,000-strong Bedouin Arab minority. He also is the Israel Defense Force’s top-ranking tracker. Many of the IDF’s 1,655 Bedouins use their nomadic skills to detect infiltrators along Israel’s borders, especially in the north. . . .’This is our country,’ Mazarib told Agence France-Presse last April. He added that he does not fear the Star of David on Israel’s banner, despite being Muslim. ‘The flag of England also has a cross on it, and the Jews are fine with it,’ Mazarib said at a memorial site for the 182 Bedouin soldiers who have died fighting for Israel. . . . Though Israel’s Jews and Arabs clash, they also cooperate far more than most journalists admit. In his Ramadan greetings last July, Prime Minister Netanyahu described his country’s Muslim citizens as an ‘integral part of Israeli society.’ “ (Ref. 5)

     Muslim/Arab-Jewish interaction in most of Israel is much more common and peaceful than would be assumed, based upon the foreign media reports. The American-born Israeli guide of our Canadian-American volunteer group in Israel serves as a police volunteer and IDF reservist. He pointed out that he works with Muslim Arabs as equals; Medicine is an equal opportunity environment with medical personal coming from both communities and serving all patients equally, no matter if they are Jews, Muslims or anyone else. Our guide’s primary care physician is a Muslim Arab. My personal interaction with Israeli Arabs, during a decade of visits, has reinforced the fact that most Israeli Jews and Israel Arabs get along extremely well. It is the rare exception that makes the news.

     “Accounting for more than 10 percent of eligible voters, the political involvement of the Arab sector is manifested in national and municipal elections. Arab citizens run the political and administrative affairs of their own municipalities and represent Arab interests through their elected representatives in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), who operate in the political arena to promote the status of minority groups and their share of national benefits.
      - - -
     “Israel’s Arab citizens, who constitute one-seventh of Israel’s population, . . . exist on the margins of the conflicting worlds of Jews and Palestinians. However, while remaining a segment of the ‘Palestinian’ people in culture and identity and disputing Israel’s identification as a Jewish state, they see their future tied to Israel. In the process, 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.
     Development of intergroup relations between Israel’s Arabs and Jews has been hindered by deeply-rooted differences in religion, values and political beliefs. However, though coexisting as two self-segregated communities, over the years they have come to accept each other, acknowledging the uniqueness and aspirations of each community and participating in a growing number of joint endeavors.” (Ref. 6)

     The Technion in Haifa, Israel is referred to as the M.I.T. of Israel. It is by far the preeminent technical university in the entire region. It turns out that the Technion is also a prime example of Israel’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to all of its citizens. The Technion clearly gives the lie to the charge that Israel is an apartheid regime. The following information is abstracted from Reference 7.

     Within the highly diverse society that makes up the State of Israel, the Technion is creating educational opportunities for all members of Israeli society to thrive and lead. Where there are social, religious political or economic divisions, the Technion is bringing together Israelis, who might never otherwise interact, in the joint pursuit of knowledge and progress. Technion is an important vehicle for promoting tolerance and social mobility within Israel.

     Take, for example, the university’s growing number of Arab students. In the 1990s, Arabs made up just 5% of the Technion’s student body. Today, Arabs comprise 21% of Technion students, which corresponds to the percentage of Arabs living in Israel. The university is not only enrolling more Arab students than ever before, it’s also retaining them in unprecedented numbers; the dropout rate of Arab students has been reduced from 73% eight years ago to 12% today. This is the result of a number of bold outreach and empowerment programs, including “Generous Hands” – the first of its kind in Israel – which supports outstanding Arab undergraduates in pursuing graduate degrees, and helps them transition into the Israeli job market.

     Arab women have found especially spectacular success at the Technion. At this year’s medical school graduation, where more than half of the newly minted doctors were female, one in three of those women were Arab. Last February, the Technion launched a project that successfully assisted Arab female entrepreneurs in developing their own companies. Some participants in this program will join other Arab Technion grads – both male and female – who are building a vibrant start-up scene in Nazareth, which holds great promise to provide new economic opportunities for Jews and Arab Israelis alike.

     Yet, this work extends far beyond the Arab community. Israel’s diverse and dynamic society is represented in all corners of the campus where religious and secular students are working together as Engineers Without Borders to bring life-changing solutions to communities in need. In research labs, faculty lounges, and pickup soccer games, Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, women and men, new immigrants and fifth-generation Sabras are all learning from each other.

     Clearly, inequalities exist in Israel, as they do in America and in all other countries around the globe. In many respects, Arabs in Israel are treated as equals but in other areas, discrimination and unequal opportunities persist. But, as the saying goes, “times, they are a-changing!” And, as for the term “Apartheid State” – that phrase simply has no meaning with respect to Israeli-Arabs!

Israeli Christians:

     “Amid cries of Israel being an apartheid state, not treating its minorities with equality and chasing Christians away, the opposite is true. [Emphasis mine] The Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs has a very comprehensive understanding of its Christian citizens, who are a minority within a minority. Most Christian citizens living permanently in Israel are Arabs who were born to citizens of pre- or post-State Israel and at the time of this writing, they make up 2.1% of the population.
     “Christianity has a long history in the Land of Israel. The ruins of the oldest church building in the world were found in Megiddo; dating back to the 3rd century. Israeli law recognizes official church bodies that are responsible for registering marriages, births and deaths for their congregants. These are the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic (Latin rite), Gregorian-Armenian, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Chaldean, Melkite (Greek Catholic), Ethiopian Orthodox, Maronite Catholics and Syriac Orthodox churches, as well as the Arab Anglican and Lutheran denominations.
     “For the last 20 years, every Thursday to Saturday in the month of December, a few hundred thousand visitors flock to the Wadi Nisnas holiday market. Also known as the Holiday of Holidays Festival, it is held in Wadi Nisnas; the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Haifa. This market serves to act as an inter-faith endeavor combining the three monotheistic holidays that generally occur around that time of the year – Hanukkah of Judaism, Eid Al-Adha of Islam and Christmas of Christianity.
     “In Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem, as well as in Nazareth and Jaffa, Christmas trees are lit with official ceremonies and celebrations and in addition, many hotels throughout the country that cater to foreign tourists have Christmas trees in their lobbies to add to the traditional Christian festivities. Carol services held in many churches are well attended by congregants and visitors – especially Jewish Israeli guests.
     “The Israeli Defense Force even hosted a Christmas party for Arab Christian soldiers.
      - - -
     “For many decades, another Christian event in Israel has taken place with much pomp and circumstance, and this year {2015} was no different. Monday May 2 marked the annual Easter parade of the Orthodox Christian-Arab Scouts in Israel. It took place along Yefet Street in Jaffa with the blessing of the municipality, who allows for roads in the area to be cordoned off for a few hours for the duration of the festivities. With an appearance made by the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other dignitaries; hundreds of men, women and children participated in the parade including representatives of the various churches from Israel and the greater Christian community.  . . .
     “Unlike other parts of the region, the Christian community in Israel is growing and thriving. [Emphasis mine]” (Ref. 8) So, you tell me – Is Israel an apartheid regime?

Christian Arabs:

     While Christian communities in Arab and Muslim countries and in area controlled by the Palestinians suffer virulent discrimination and decline, the Christian community in Israel enjoys religious, economic and political freedom and continues to grow. The following is abstracted from Reference 9.

     In 2013, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 161,000 Christians, or 2 percent of the population, lived in Israel at the end of 2013, compared to 158,000 the previous year.

     Just under 80% of Christians in Israel are Arab. The majority of the remaining 20% are from the former Soviet Union. Once again, Christian pupils out-performed their non-Christian peers in obtaining their high-school graduation certificates. In 2012, 69% of Christian pupils received their graduation certificate, compared to 61 percent of schoolchildren in the Hebrew education systems, 50% of Muslim pupils and 64% of Druse pupils.

African Israelis:

     “Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew” is a forty minute documentary produced by Jerusalem U and tells the story of an Ethiopian Jew coming to and growing up in Israel. His story, from Reference 10, is outlined, below.

     Mekonen, an Ethiopian Jew, grew up in a village in the Ethiopian highlands. At the age of 6, his father led a group of 30 families, on foot, to the city of Gondar in preparation of their move to Israel. They spent the next 6 years there in a shack of straw and mud. The day before they were finally able to fly to Israel, Mekonen’s father died. Mekonen arrive in Israel at the age of 12. After graduation from high school, Mekonen was drafted into the IDF, where he progressed to sergeant and then lieutenant. The IDF has provided Mekonen with a career and the opportunity to proceed to whatever he wants to make of his life in Israel. Mekonen expresses his love of Israel with these words: “This is my country. I fight for it and I will continue to fight for it.” (Ref. 9) Israel – an apartheid state???

     Mekonen’s story is only one of many stories of African Jews who were taken in by Israel, not in the chains of slaves, but on the wings of eagles. In 1984, thousands of black Ethiopian Jews fled to Sudan to escape a brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia. Between November 1984 and January 1985 Israel evacuated 8,000 Ethiopian Jews in Operation Moses. But, when Arab countries learned of the airlift, they pressured Sudan to stop it, stranding some 1,000 Ethiopian Jews.. Later, U.S. Vice President George H. W. Bush arranged to have Sudan allow Operation Joshua which evacuated another 800. In 1991, Operation Solomon took place. In 36 hours, some 34 Israeli aircraft transported an additional 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.[10] Other than tiny Israel, what country on the face of this earth has taken in tens of thousands African blacks, settled them, granted them full citizenship, and helped them to acclimate to a new land, with unfamiliar ways?

     During my visit to Israel in early 2016 I visited the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. The IDC It is a private, not-for-profit, and nonsectarian, research college, founded in 1994. IDC has 8,000 students enrolled for undergraduate and graduate degrees, including 2,000 international students from 86 countries around the world. In 2014 IDC was ranked the most successful academic start-up institution outside of the United States, ranking 1st in Israel and 21st in the world. In the same year IDC law graduates achieved the highest passing rate at the national bar examination of all Israeli academic institutions. Moreover, IDC has been ranked first among 66 Israeli academic institutions in terms of student satisfaction for four consecutive years. In addition, IDC has been the only academic institution in the world that has won the international Jean Pictet International Humanitarian Law competition, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in consecutive years, in 2010 and again in 2011. Approximately 1/4 of the students on campus hail from some 83 countries from outside Israel. For the past 15 years, IDC has hosted the annual Herzliya Conference, which articulates Israel’s national policy by its most prominent leaders, including the Israeli President, the Prime Minister, the IDF Chief of General Staff, and the leading contenders for high political office. It has also been hosting the World Summit on Counterterrorism since 2001.

     At the IDC, my group heard from three Ethiopian-Israeli women who were graduate students at the IDC. The parents of all three women immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia, some walking for hundreds or thousands of miles to reach safety. They all come from large families. In general, their parents were poor and uneducated and unused to modern life.

     The first student, after serving in the IDF, is now in law school. Asked if she thought Israel was an apartheid country, she said it wasn’t. She wanted to repay Israel for taking in her family and providing them with a new life, one where she has had the opportunity to obtain an advanced college degree – unthinkable from where her family came.

     The second student was enrolled in the school of communication at IDC. She stated that while Israel, like any other country, has its problems, they are fixable. Her goal was to become a lawyer so she could defend Israel against the bigots and anti-Semites in the world and fight the BDS movement.

     The third student has risen to the rank of lieutenant in the IDF. Her goal now is to complete her education/training at IDC so she can work to eliminate barriers to women and blacks.

     The most impressive portion of our IDC visit was hearing from these three black Ethiopian Israeli women students. We all listened inventively to the stories of their family’s unbelievable hardships in coming to Israel and their own experiences growing up and living in Israel, about their experiences and feelings about being enrolled in the IDC, and learning about their future goals. Their enthusiasm and their obvious love of Israel were inspiring. Being black in Israel, as in most white societies, is not the easiest thing, but being black in Israel most certainly provides opportunities that were not available in these women’s homeland and not in many other countries. They are certainly not living in an apartheid State!


     Israel’s Circassians came to Palestine from Russia’s northern Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, where they had a reputation for being fierce fighters. In the mid-1800s, the Circassians were massacred and expelled from their homeland by Czarist Russia. The Ottoman Empire took in the Circassians to help them defend their empire. The Ottoman Turks settled Circassians in areas like the Galilee in Palestine.

     Israeli-Circassians refers to the Adyghe community and they are Sunni Muslims. Circassians emphasize the separation between religion and their nationality. Today, about 4,000 Circassians live in Israel, mainly in the villages of Kfar Kama and Rehaniya.

     Since 1958 all male Circassians (at their leader's request) complete Israeli military service upon reaching the age of majority, while females do not. Israel’s Circassian community certainly does not view Israel as an apartheid state!

     The Circassian community in Israel serves as just one more example, in a list of many, of the wide diversity of peoples residing in this country. They have shown their appreciation for living in a democracy that permits them to enjoy complete religious freedom by being among the most loyal supporters of the nation.

     Today, most Circassian children in Israel are fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, learn English at school and their Circassian language (Adyghe) at home. After Israel’s creation, male members of the community flocked to the defense establishment, particularly the border police. In recent years, the community has been making its mark far beyond the defense arena. An astounding 90% of Circassian-Israeli children go on to higher education. Circassians are still one more minority community who have prospered greatly in the Jewish state. Israel’s Muslim Circassians definitely do not see themselves as living in an apartheid state!!!


     In November of 2014 a Druze Israeli Police officer, Zidan Sayif, 27, died of wounds after a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue. He was the first on the scene to end the terrorist slaughter. Two Palestinian terrorists had entered the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue in the city’s religious Har Nof neighborhood, opened fire with a weapon and struck worshipers with a meat cleaver and knives. Zidan and another police officer were able to shoot and kill the assailants shortly after the attack.

     Like Zidan, many members of the Druze community serve in Israel’s security forces, including the police, IDF, and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and they are engaged in defense and counter-terrorism on a daily basis. Since its founding in 1948, the Druze community in Israel has been an integral part of the security and peace keeping efforts of this country. Along with Zidan Sayif, other Druze have fallen in defending the nation.

     The Druze are of Arab descent, but they do not practice the Islamic religion. The Druze religion was established at the beginning of the 11th century, but only in the 19th century were they recognized as an independent congregation by the Ottoman regime. The Druze did not attempt to reform mainstream Islam, but to create a whole new religious body combining various Jewish, Christian, and Islamic elements influenced by Greek philosophy and Gnosticism, including a form of reincarnation in which the Druze reincarnate as future descendants.

     The Druze community reveres the biblical Jethro, the non-Jewish father-in-law of Moses. According to the biblical narrative, Jethro joined and assisted the Jewish people in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt, accepted monotheism, but ultimately rejoined his own people. The tomb of Jethro at the Horns of Hittin near Tiberias is the most important religious site for the Druze community. It has been claimed that the Druze are actually descendants of Jethro.

     The Druze are a religious minority in Israel. In 2004, there were 102,000 Druze living in the country. In 1957, the Israeli government designated the Druze as a distinct ethnic community at the request of the Druze communal leaders. The Druze are Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel and, at their request, serve in the IDF alongside their fellow Jewish countrymen. The bond between Jewish and Druze soldiers is commonly known by the term "a covenant of blood". This relationship between Israeli Jews and Druze since Israel's independence in 1948 is both emotional and practical, partly because of the considerable number of Israeli Druze soldiers that have fallen in defense of Israel during Israel's many wars with its Arab neighbors.

     Members of the community have attained top positions in Israeli politics and public service. Many Druze of college age attend the nearby Haifa University and Technion, and there are several members of the faculties at these universities that are Druze.

     Israel’s Druze community is prospering and growing. Consequently, “Israel has approved a plan to build a new Druze town in the North.
     “The plan . . . was approved {in early 2016} by the National Planning and Building Council . . . and will be located near Tiberias {on the Sea of Galileee}.
     “. . .{I}t will be the first Druze town built in Israel since the state’s founding in 1948.
     “The town ‘will advance the Druze population economically and socially’ . . .
     “There are 18 recognized Druze towns — 14 in the Galilee and four in the Golan. The towns are built on the slopes of hills and suffer from significant planning limitations due to their locations near nature reserves.
     “The new town is set to be built near an urban area on land that is suitable for development and close to centers of employment.” (Ref. 11)

     “This initiative is part of an extensive plan approved last year by the Israeli government to invest . . . (about $500 million) over five years in the development of Israel’s Druze and Circassian minority communities.
     “ ‘The Druze community has bound its fate to the State of Israel. The proportion of enlistment in the IDF is among the highest in the state and many Druze are in IDF combat units. This is only part of our extensive activity for the Druze community and we are carrying out our commitments to the community,’ said {Israel’s Prime Minister}”. (Ref. 12)

     Although a tiny minority, Israel’s 150,000 Druze citizens have a disproportionately high rate of recruitment to the IDF, most serving in combat units and many achieving high rank as officers. They are also represented in Israel’s Parliament and government. One more success story for a thriving minority community in a country maliciously libeled as an apartheid State.!


     Built in 1953, the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab in Haifa is one of the most visited landmarks in Israel. The Shrine contain the tomb of Siyyad Ali Muhammed – the Bab – a Muslim in Persia who proclaimed the coming of a “Promised One” in 1844. In 1850, he was executed in Iran for heresy. In 1909, the Bab’s disciples brought his remains to Haifa.

     Mirza Husayn ali Nuri (1817-92), known as Bahaullah or Baha Allah, the “Promised One” founded the Baha'i faith in Iran in 1863. From 1852 to 1877 Baha Allah was imprisoned or exiled. During that time he wrote the Kitab al-aqdas (Arabic for “The Most Holy Book”). At the time of Baha Allah‘s death in 1892, the Baha'i were based in Iran and in Acre in Palestine.

     Baha Allah is buried near Akko (Acre). Baha Allah‘s son, Abbas Effendi, or Abd al-Baha, spread the Baha’i faith around the world. Since 1962, the Baha'i have been administered by their Universal House of Justice, based in Haifa.

     In more recent times, the Baha'i were Iran’s largest minority and were treated with relative tolerance by the Shah's regime. Iran’s current Islamic government now persecutes the Baha’i. In marked contrast to Iran’s treatment of the Baha’i, a very positive relationship exists between the Baha'i faith and the State of Israel. Israel even has a Baha'i Department under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

     Baha Allah left explicit instructions that spreading the faith and accepting converts was forbidden in Palestine (now Israel). In keeping with this ruling, there are no permanent Baha’i in Israel. The only Baha'i in Israel are volunteer workers.

     The world-wide Baha’i faith is headquartered in Haifa in Israel. The relations between Jews, Israel and the Baha’i has been an extremely cordial and mutually respected one. As opposed to many Islamic countries, the Baha’i are free to practice their belief in Israel and to administer their religion from the Jewish homeland. The Baha’i could never imagine Israel as an apartheid State!


     Samaritans are Israelite remnants of First Temple days. Samaritans are not Jews, although they observe practices close to that of Judaism some 2500 years ago. The Samaritans originally resided in Samaria, the mountainous, central region of the biblical Northern Kingdom of Israel - in what is now called the West Bank. The name Samaria is derived from the ancient city of Samaria, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel.

     The Samaritans claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (sons of Joseph) as well as from the priestly tribe of Levi. Their religion is based on the Samaritan Pentateuch and they claim that their worship is the true religion of Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile following the destruction of the First Temple. The Samaritans split from Judaism around 2,000 years ago, but because they speak ancient Hebrew and pray in synagogues, they are often mistaken for Jews. The Samaritans are a distinctly religious community and their high priest also acts as their political official and representative.

     The Samaritans maintain relationships with both Israelis and Palestinians. Neither Muslim nor Jew, Samaritans function well in both societies. They number around 800, divided between Kiryat Luza on Mount Gerizim in Samaria (West Bank) and the city of Holon, just outside Tel Aviv.

     The Samaritans write and speak in an ancient Hebraic dialect which means that their printed script is different than modern Hebrew script which is based upon Assyrian/Aramaic script. Their children learn both modern and ancient Hebrew.

     The Samaritans publish a Samaritan newspaper, called alef-bet, which, today, is printed bi-weekly. It consists of around a hundred pages that are printed in four languages - Samaritan Hebrew, Aramaic (modern) Hebrew, Arabic, and English. The Samaritans are yet another minority community that is proud and happy to be living in complete freedom in the Land of Israel. They practice their religion and enjoy their lifestyle as they wish. The Samaritans of Israel most certainly are not living in an apartheid state!!!


     “The Arameans are a small minority in Israel, with only about 200 families residing within the state. They are Israeli Christians, and for the first time as of September 2014 they are their own individually defined ethnic group and no longer have to identify as Arabs in Israel.” (Ref. 2)

An Apartheid State?:

     In large, we here in America, as elsewhere in the world. can only see Israel as it is painted by the media and this picture is too badly distorted. The media picture is distorted by the need to sell the news or, unfortunately, by those who have an agenda. I, a Jew, have felt completely at ease with Arab citizens of Israel and I have visited and been welcomed at an Islamic mosque in Haifa. Unfortunately, far too many people see Israel only as portrayed by the media.

     The truth is that the majority of the media only reports the sensational, never the more mundane facts of everyday life. They report the attempts to brand Israel as racist and apartheid, but they rarely report on the everyday peaceful relations between Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Bedouins, Christians, Druze, Baha'i and others. They report on the stone throwing, the fighting, and the name calling, but they don’t tell you about the peace-loving majority who simply want to go on with their lives. They don’t bother to report the facts that people do nearly all the things that we do in America - Israelis shop at malls and supermarkets like we do, they take in shows and entertainment like we do, they send their children to school like we do, they take vacations like we do, and so on. The media doesn’t let you meet the average Joe; instead they focus on the extremists and the radicals who make most of the noise and the sensational news that we are so eager to buy, see or hear. Israel may not be Utopia, but neither is it the warmongering, racist state that some would paint it to be.

     “The war against Israel has passed through three phases.
     “The first was the attempt to annihilate Israel by conventional means. It began with Israel's birth in 1948 . . . and ended in the 1973 Yom Kippur War . . .
     “The next stage, starting in the early 1970s, sought to cripple Israel through terror. Suicide bombers nearly paralyzed the country, but by 2005 they too were defeated.
     “That is when Israel's enemies launched the third, and potentially most devastating, campaign: to isolate, delegitimize and sanction Israel into extinction. And a key weapon in this stage is the hugely destructive word ‘apartheid.’
      - - -
     “. . . {I}n Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, Jews and Arabs mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods. Arabs serve in Israel's parliament, in its army and on its Supreme Court. And though discrimination in Israel, as in America, remains a scourge, there is no imposed segregation. Go to any Israeli mall, any restaurant or hospital, and you will see Arabs and Jews interacting.
     “This reality has not prevented Israel's enemies from branding it with the apartheid label. They do so not to achieve a better peace arrangement with Israel but to isolate it internationally and to eliminate it through sanctions. We Jews remember how each attempt to obliterate us, whether in the Inquisition or during the Holocaust, was preceded by a campaign to delegitimize us. People who practice apartheid are easily considered illegitimate.
     “Israel is not an apartheid state and will not become one . . . However unwittingly, those who associate apartheid with Israel are aiding the third and perhaps ultimate stage in the effort to destroy the nation. [Emphasis mine] They are also committing a grave injustice to the millions of American and South African blacks who were the victims of true apartheid.” (Ref. 13)


  1. Minorities in Israel, Anti-Defamation League, Accessed 16 July 2016.
  2. Minority Communities in Israel: Background & Overview, Jewish Virtual Library, Updated February 2016.
  3. Arabs Default More on Taxes – Not Because of Nationalism, Hillel Fendel, Arutz Sheva, 14 October 2009.
  4. Additional NIS 900 million funding to be distributed to close social and economic gaps, i24news, 31 April 2015.
  5. Arabs Are Prominent in Israel’s Government, Deroy Murdock, National Review, 25 November 2013.
  6. Overview of Israel’s Ethnic Minorities, Jewish Virtual Library,, Accessed 16 July 2016.
  7. Diversity is the Lifeblood of the Technion, Jeff Richard, American Technion Today, 5 August 2015.
  8. Christianity and Religious Freedom of Minorities in Israel, Kehila News Israel Staff, Kehila news Israel,
    11 May 2016.
  9. Diversity is the Lifeblood of the Technion, Jeremy Sharon, The Jerusalem Post, 24 December 2013.
  10. Mekonen: An Ethiopian Commander In the IDF, Rhona Lewis, Olam, 8 July 2016.
  11. Israel OKs plans to build first new Druze town since ’48, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6 January 2016.
  12. Israel approves plans to build new Druze town, Jewish News Service, 5 January 2016.
  13. Israel isn't, and will never be, an apartheid state, Michael Oren, Los Angeles Times, 16 July 2016.


  28 July 2016 {Article 259; Israel_27}    
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