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The Knesset is currently reviewing an amendment to the law, the so-called “loyalty law,” which will require all those seeking citizenship to be “loyal citizens to the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and respect its laws.”

Israel’s health and education systems are the best in the region and consistently rank among the best in the world. Health care is universal and all Israeli citizens and permanent residents have access to quality care. Education is universal and compulsory from preschool to grade 12. The Israeli government supports most schools, segregating them into four groups: state-secular, state-religious, Ultra-Orthodox and Arab, the latter includes secular and parochial schools. Schools in predominantly Arab communities emphasize Arabic language, history and culture, but require Hebrew, English, mathematics, science and the humanities.

According to experts, the quality of education in Israeli Arab communities pales in comparison to Jewish communities. Arab schools receive half of the per capita budget assigned to Jewish schools. Arab students also have the highest dropout rates and lowest achievement levels in the country.

Economic situation. Israel’s economy is the most advanced in the region, with highly advanced sectors in agriculture, finance and technology. From 2001 until the global financial meltdown, Israel’s GDP grew by 5 percent each year. Yet, 56 percent of Israeli Arab families live below the poverty line, including 68 percent of Israeli Arab children. Of Israel’s 61 poorest towns, 48 are Arab.

Unemployment has hit hardest Israel’s fastest-growing communities: 65 percent of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish males and 27 percent of Arab males are unemployed. Generally, Israeli Arabs face stiff competition for jobs in agriculture and construction from guest workers. Stagnant local economies and Israeli Jewish reluctance to hire Israeli Arabs also contribute to the problem. In addition, a lack of job skills and poor schooling prevents them from entering Israel’s competitive workforce.

Religious situation. Israel’s Jews and Arabs — Christian, Druze and Muslim — generally live in segregated neighborhoods and towns. They send their children to separate schools and have little personal contact with one another. Studies show that Israeli Jews express negative attitudes toward Israeli Arabs; more than 75 percent of Israeli Jews would not agree to live in a building with Arab residents. Around 50 percent feel fear when hearing someone speak Arabic, though Arabic is one of the official languages of the State of Israel. More than 50 percent think that the Israeli government should encourage Arab emigration.

In mixed Arab communities, Druze and Muslims often discriminate against or harass their Christian neighbors. On occasion, tensions have erupted in violence, resulting in injuries and damage to Christian-owned property.

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Tags: Israel Christian-Muslim relations Arabs Jewish-Catholic relations