One of the most talked about subjects in Palestinian society in Israel is the violence among different gangs. Many people claim the reasons for the violence are the “Arab” mentality, lack of education at home or religion. However, recent studies have investigated this subject indicating internal and external factors for the violence. These include lack of police presence, discrimination, government neglect, little economic opportunities, and a shortage of housing.
The Marker, an Israeli newspaper, recently highlighted the neglect of the education system among Palestinian in Israel. According to the article, weak education systems contribute to poverty, which in turn contributes to gang violence and criminality. Among children, 57.4% of Palestinian in Israel live in poverty as opposed to 21.4% of children in Israeli-Jewish society.
Another point overlooked, is the fact that the education system does not cultivate a Palestinian identity for students in Israel. Instead of learning about their own history, poetry and identity, Palestinian students learn about the Zionist and Jewish history, poetry, and identity. Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, are presented in a negative way in the Israeli curriculum. This can affect the self-esteem and sense of belonging of many young people. Some research has suggested a connection between a positive self-perception and success in higher education and the workplace.
In terms of internal factors, major changes are happening to family structures and norms. Women are becoming the main source of income in many communities, and many men are struggling to find work. As a result, frustration and anger is increasing among young men who also seek alternative ways to bring in money. Corruption and mismanagement in the leadership adds to the already existing frustration, anger, and sense of hopelessness.
As Christians and Churches this should be something that we are dealing with. After all, Church schools in the Holy Land play an important role in the last 100 years in educating Palestinians. Many leaders, academics, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs have come through such education system. In fact, Palestinian Christians in Israel are the most educated segment of society.
So how then can Churches and Christians respond to this matter? One basic action that we can take is training poor and marginalized segments of society, including those who do not attend the Church schools. Another response can also be providing spaces and platforms for Palestinians to cultivate their art, build their identity independently and teach their history. This can also include teaching about our Church’s history, values, traditions, the holy sites, and influential figures.
If we are called to be salt and light in our societies, we are responsible to find ways to be a source of blessings to our people.
Janan. Bsoul. The Real Reason Violence Is Raging Among Israel's Arabs, 2021, Harretz Newspaper, (The real reason violence is raging among Israel's Arabs - Opinion - Haaretz.com September 2021).
Sami Peretz. The "quiet" reasons for violence in Arab society: the large number of unemployed and single young people, 2021, TheMarker Newspaper, (https://www.themarker.com/news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT-1.10479140 December 2021).
Nathanael, Gams and Sivan Klingbyl. Left behind: Arabs in the cities involved are paying the price for government disregard, TheMarker, December 2021.
Seth, Frantzman. Education and Empowerment: Lessons and History of the Christian Education Network in Israel and Palestine, Presented at the Middle East Dialogue, Washington, DC, February 24, 2011.
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