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Gains for Arabs in Israel

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Despite great strides in education, working conditions, and health facilities, the 440,000 Arabs living in Israel today–representing 12 1/2 percent of the total population–are not ready to integrate into the new State primarily because they have not yet really reconciled themselves to the existence of Israel.

This was the main theme in a political briefing on the Middle East delivered by Yaacov Cohen, American representative of the Histadrut, at a nationwide meeting of the national board of Pioneer Women, the women’s labor Zionist organization, at the Belmont Hotel this week.

Cohen noted that when Israel was established in 1948, there were a total of 156,000 Arabs living in the country, compared with the present Arab population of 440,000, living in the pre-Six-Day War borders of Israel. Seventy percent of the Israeli Arabs are under the age of 25, he said.

Although the Arab infant mortality rate has fallen from 20 per thousand in 1948 to six per thousand currently, similar to the Jewish rate, and despite a current school enrollment of 92 percent for Arab boys and 82 percent for girls. compared with 28 percent in 1948. Cohen said the Israeli Arab essentially refuses to be assimilated into Israel’s wider society.

Cohen said there is no easy solution to this problem, in view of this background, but expressed the hope that Israel will “continue to weaken the barriers (between Jews and Arabs), increase and promote social and economic intermingling of the two communities, and create a sense of mutual respect,” in order to “free their children of the heritage of hatred” imposed by the existing security and political situation in the Middle East.

Mrs. Charlotte Stein, national president of Pioneer Women, reported that a record sum of $4,885,000 had been raised in the year ending June 30, compared with $4,710,000 the previous year. Funds raised by Pioneer Women are used to support a wide range of social, educational, vocational, and youth and child care programs involving tens of thousands of Israeli women, teen-age girls, and young children. Arab as well as Jewish young people and women are aided through the Pioneer Women programs.

At the end of its three-day meeting, the Pioneer Women board approved the establishment of an affiliated “Friends of Pioneer Women” group in which men would be eligible, the first time that an affiliate for men has been set up in the 51-year history of the organization.

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