Ynet and the JPost report on an upsetting study that demonstrates that even when highly educated and well qualified, Arabs, Haredi (orthodox) Jews and Ethiopians (in order of the most difficult to the least difficult challenges faced) have a very difficult time finding jobs in Israel. The report's findings demonstrate that banks, law firms and media are amongst some of the sectors where this discrimination is occurring.
The study was conducted by professors working at Ono College who presented their findings on November 10, 2009.
Certainly, deeply entrenched societal racism and prejudices are major factors in this discrepancy. It may be possible to imagine how the political climate sees Arabs ranked as the most discriminated against, there is no excuse for this type of prejudice. In one of the more revealing comments made to the researchers an advertising agency employee said (as reported in Ynet): "The haredi, Arab and Ethiopian needs many more things in order to be like a normal Ashkenazi." It's difficult to imagine how anyone can interpret this as a reasonable, liberal (as opposed to racist) view. What this respondent was saying was that everyone should just be mainstream, just like the majority and that this majority is itself incapable of tolerating or understanding why minorities would want to be different.
Another quote highlighting just how marginalized some of these groups have become and how unwilling the majority is to accept those who continue to make Israel a diverse country appears in the JPost: "There is a real concern about the awkwardness of shaking hands with a haredi Jew, telling army stories in front of an Arab and the 'coarse' Israeli mentality in front of the Ethiopian." If these groups were better integrated into society perhaps Israelis would learn that a diverse society must adapt to include minorities and weave them into the fabric of what the whole society is. Otherwise, what is being demanded is assimilation and a refusal to recognize real differences.
Aside from racism, another, and perhaps even larger, obstacle to the unemployed is that Israeli society has firmly entrenched networks of personal and family connections that many Israelis rely on to find work. While there's nothing wrong with a cultural practice of relying heavily on personal networks to help find work, it becomes problematic when qualified individuals from outside these networks cannot break into the system. If one needs a contact to secure a job, and these contacts may be based on anything from having served in the army together or grown up in the same neighborhood, and Arabs and Haredim rarely serve in the army while Ethiopians do, but may live in different neighborhoods, how can these groups expect to break into the job market without their own contacts. They key for these communities is to have their own champions, their own visible communities inside industry which can help see other members of the same group promoted.
The author of the study, speaking at a conference contradicted the optimistic works of the Minister of the Treasury, Dr. Yuval Steinitz, with the ominous warning that things were deteriorating, not improving, and that without major attitude shifts, things may go very awry. There may already be signs of this taking place. For example, recent Haredi riots in parts of Jerusalem and repeated complaints by Israeli Arabs of discriminatory treatment as well as sympathetic attitudes towards the last intifada are important warnings of what can happen should Israel fail to bring these disadvantaged groups into the mainstream and allow their communities to be full members of Israeli society.
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