Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Increase in Israel-Arab Youth Participation in National Service

Last week Lior Shohat, Public Affairs Coordinator in the Administration for National Civic Service, announced that the number of Israeli-Arabs that have applied for positions in the Israeli national service program has quadrupled in the four years since the program was started. According to Shohat, the demand among Israeli-Arab youth for service positions far outstrips the 1000+ vacancies currently available to them.

This news, in conjunction with a 2007 poll by Dr. Sammy Smooha and Dr. Nahed Ali of Haifa University showing that 75% of the Israeli-Arab population supports civil service, displays a marked contrast between the willingness and desire of young Israeli-Arabs to serve on a national level and the opposition of some Arab leaders to Arab participation in the program. Critics say that Arab young people involved in the civil service program will be ostracized by their communities and that the program’s integration of Arab youth is an attempt to erode a sense of Arab community unity.

However, comments in articles by Ynetnews highlight some opinions from Arab young people who are convinced of the importance of volunteering and contributing civil service to their country. This view very much ties in with the research that ICP has done over the years demonstrating that service is a proven strategy for connecting marginalized youth to the greater community . ICP’s research also shows that young people on the whole are eager for opportunities that will allow them to take on a role as a valuable resource in proactively addressing challenges in their communities, and that service provides valuable educational, employment, and active citizenship skills, as well as providing a path out of poverty and social marginalization. ICP’s most recent Service as a Strategy paper further highlights the importance of government and nongovernment investment in youth service opportunities as a way to address critical national needs.

It comes as no surprise to ICP that the National Civic Service program of Israel has proven to be an attractive option for Israeli-Arab youth seeking an alternative to 60+ years of political and social isolation and marginalization.

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