by Johnathan Elkhoury
Israel has many minorities that over the years have become [integral] parts of Israeli society, such as the Druze people - around 122,000, Christians-around 123,000, Muslims - over 1,200,000, the Bahai people around 700, Bedouins around 250,000 and more.
Israel accepted the writer and his fellow SLA refugees. This is how it turned out. Apartheid state, anyone?
I belong to one of the smallest minorities in Israel, the refugees from the SLA (South Lebanese Army).Those are former soldiers and their families (around 700 families) who were supported by Israel during the South Lebanon conflict, to fight against the PLO and Hezbollah in 1982 until 2000.
After the decision of the Israeli government to leave the south of Lebanon on May 23rd 2000, SLA people were given the choice to flee to Israel and get asylum. My father left Lebanon that day and my mother, my brother and I followed him on August 28 2001. At the beginning the Israeli government arranged motels, hotels and holiday villages for the families for a year and a half. During that year they sent the children to special schools so they could learn Hebrew and continue their studies in school and the grownups were sent to Ulpan for Hebrew studies. Also each family received a small amount of money every month.
After we grew up and finished school with full diplomas, had learnt to speak Hebrew fluently, as children of SLA’s we were given the choice to join the army. Some of us joined it or the national service, like my brother and I, as we wanted to feel like regular Israeli citizens and do our civil obligations. Every Israeli citizen at the age of 18, by law, has to join the army, men for three years and women for two years (optional for Israeli Arabs).
Israel is considered one of the safest places in the Middle East for minorities because of its acceptance of freedom of religion.
“Israel's minorities, including over one million citizens who are Arabs, always have full civil rights. Israel's government will never tolerate discrimination against women. Israel's Christian population will always be free to practice their faith. This is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are fully free to practice their faith. They don't have to fear; they don't have to flee. In a time where Christians are under siege in so many places, in so many lands in the Middle East, I'm proud that in Israel Christians are free to practice their faith and that there's a thriving Christian community in Israel." PM Netanyahu (25 March 2012).
Minorities in Israel get more help in high education facilities than other Israeli students. Here are some examples: In some colleges and universities Arab students get extra help and tutoring so they can pass the exams. Some institutions of higher education, like the University of Haifa accept Arab students although they don’t have all the formal acceptance papers and high acceptance scores.
Some say that Arabs are discriminated in Israel, although they get more help in getting into institutions of higher education. Israel is trying to help them succeed in order to garner more possibilities in searching for a decent job. Today you can see more and more Arabs in high positions, for example professors and directors of clinics in Hospitals and Arabs ministers (including women).
Israel doesn’t force you to abandon your identity and your beliefs or your language. You can choose where to live and what to wear. You can choose where to study and what to study and Israel tries to help you succeed. You have electricity 24/7, running water, and working transportation to and from every city, health care in some of the best hospitals in the world. You can travel wherever you like in Israel and in all states that Israel has diplomatic arrangement with. There is free education to every child till the age of 18 and a good living standard. You have the right to protest on every subject that bothers you and included is even the right to arrange pro-Palestinian protest demonstrations.
In my opinion I think that Israel is a good place to live in and I see my future here.
This article appeared on the Norwegian Perspektiv site.
From a recent post by the writer on Israeltoday: In the coming year, Israeli Arabs must either take a clear stand as citizens who love and support the State of Israel and care about its future, or continue to stick their collective heads in the sand and wait for a future that doesn’t look very bright.
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