Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues

Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues

Mission: The mission of the Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues (GWFIA) is to educate the Washington Jewish community about:

  • Jewish Arab relations in Israel, including the economic, educational and social challenges faced by Arab citizens of Israel; and
  • the efforts of the Israeli government, the private sector, and the NGO community to address these challenges and achieve full civic equality for all Israeli citizens.

Membership: The GWFIA is a coalition of community organizations, synagogues, philanthropic foundations, and individuals, located in Greater Washington metropolitan area. The GWFIA welcomes all who support the vision expressed in the Declaration of Establishment of the State of Israel:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.


Background: Approximately 20.6% of Israel's 8.3 million citizens are Arabs, including Muslims, Christians, Bedouin and Druze. Since 1948, the relationships of these several communities to the Jewish majority have been complex, varied, and constantly changing. However, following the historic demonstrations by Israeli Arabs in October 2000, a commission of inquiry established by the Government of Israel engaged in a rigorous examination of the circumstances of the Israeli Arab community. Acknowledging a history of discrimination, the commission called for a wholesale review of state policies affecting its Arab citizens. The report called the issue "the most sensitive and important domestic issue facing Israel today." [Report of the Or Commission, 2003, par. 24].

In response to growing awareness of the importance of this issue to the future of the State of Israel, leading national organizations of the American Jewish community created the Inter Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. The IATF now includes more than 100 members, including 21 Federations, 40+ private foundations, and national organizations from across the political and religious spectrum of the organized American Jewish community. The IATF mission includes educating the American community about majority/minority relations in Israel and coordinating activities among its members so that they can more effectively carry out their respective activities in North America and in Israel. For more information about the IATF, visit www.IATaskForce.org.

Why is this issue important to our Jewish community?

Rationale for Action: In Israel as well as in the diaspora, the case for addressing the issue of Israeli Arabs has been made along three distinct but interrelated lines:

  • Jewish Values Several values at the core of classical Jewish teaching as well as a strand of Zionist thinking (spiritual Zionism) that dates back more than a century, teach that a Jewish state must be the embodiment of the highest ideals of prophetic Judaism. This includes: ahavat ger, loving the stranger in our midst because we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20); tzelem elohim, treating every person as if he or she was a child of God (Genesis 1:27); and the belief that though justice Zion will achieve ultimate redemption (Tzion b'mishpat tipadeh, Isaiah 1:27).
  • Modern Democratic Values Israel's Declaration of Establishment pledges that the State "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex."  Israel's commitment to these democratic values align its national interest, identity and future with other modern Western democracies, including most importantly the United States of America. In today's world, it is especially important that Israel do its utmost to live up to these values, both for the sake of its own society and also as an answer those who challenge its legitimate standing in the community of nations.
  • National Self-Interest The Israeli Arab community has great potential to contribute to Israel's economic development and to a vibrant and diverse society and culture. These economic and cultural contributions will benefit all citizens of Israel -- Jews and Arabs alike. Conversely, all Israeli citizens will suffer if unjustified barriers to full participation persist and prevent the Arab community from realizing its full potential. Historical precedent, both in Israel and in other countries, shows the serious consequences that can ensue when a large minority population is isolated and alienated instead of being welcomed and included.

The GWFIA will work closely with the national IATF in efforts to educate the Greater Washington community about the complex issues of majority and minority relations in Israel -- recognizing both Israel's commitment to Jewish and democratic values as well as the challenges faced in the full realization of those aspirations. The GWFIA does not anticipate becoming a grant making entity; however, it will endeavor to coordinate and assist other community organizations, synagogues, and foundations in their respective educational and philanthropic activities that address issues within the GWFIA mission. We welcome your participation and support.

GWFIA Steering Committee
Rabbi Bill Rudolph, Co-Chair
Ms. Wendy Rudolph, Co-Chair
Adas Israel Congregation
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Community of Greater Washington
Anti-Defamation League, Washington Regional Office
American Jewish Committee, Washington Regional Office
Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation
Embassy of Israel
Lois and Richard England Family Foundation
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
New Israel Fund
Washington DC JCC
Washington Hebrew Congregation
University of Maryland Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies

Helpful info:

17th WJMF Evening of Education on Arab Citizens of Israel

Watch Jewish-Israeli cellist Udi Bar David, Arab-Israeli violinist Hanna Khoury, and Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, director of Arab-Israeli conflict programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in conversation about the role of the arts in building a shared society in Israel, as part of our Evening of Education on Arab Citizens of Israel during the 17th WJMF.

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Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues

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