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Reform endorses equal treatment for Israeli Arabs

TORONTO (JTA) — The Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution urging equal services for Israeli Arabs.

It was the first time the Reform movement’s major body had passed a measure specifically addressing the needs of the minority population. The action came last Friday at the Reform biennial in Toronto.

"We talk about Israel being a vibrant, democratic state, and we have to be willing to help her live up to those aspirations," said Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center. "This population is too often mistreated, and this resolution calls upon the Israeli government to recognize their special challenges."

The resolution notes that 50 percent of Israeli Arabs live below the poverty line and receive only 71 percent of the education resources due them.

"Israel’s strength and survival depend on the democratic nature of the Jewish state," it reads. "These imperatives require that we be ever sensitive to the aspirations and just demands of Israel’s minority citizens."

The resolution encourages the Israeli government’s efforts to implement its Or Commission recommendations to reduce the gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, "including but not limited to the gaps in education, housing, industrial development, employment and services," and encourages the government to address the needs of the unrecognized Bedouin villages.

It commits the Reform movement to educate its member congregations and the wider American Jewish community about these issues, and encourages Reform movement missions and Israel programs, including those run by NFTY, the Reform youth movement, "to include issues of Arab-Jewish equality as part of their programming."

The biennial also passed resolutions urging greater focus on camping for special needs children, supporting U.S. and Canadian government efforts to promote sustainable responses to climate change while committing Reform institutions to greater implementation of "green" policies and practices, and honoring the Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools on its 18th anniversary.

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