In a first, Israel to allocate NIS360 million for Arab culture projects

Among the planned inaugural institutions are a museum of Arab-Israeli culture and a high school for theater and arts.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a first for the Arab citizens of Israel, the government announced Sunday a new program to promote culture in the sector that will receive funding to the tune of NIS360 million.

The Culture and Sports Ministry and the Social Equality Ministry are launching the plan “to reduce the existing cultural gaps in Arab society” as part of the overall NIS1.4 billion to be allocated to the Israeli Arab sector to promote Arab employment, as per the coalition agreement with the Islamist Ra’am party.

The institutions to be created include the first museum in Arab society “that will be a beacon for…cultural preservation,” art galleries, a cinematheque, and a cultural heritage center. In addition, an inaugural high school for theater and arts “will provide professional training at the highest quality level, while providing a professional horizon for its graduates.”

Existing cultural institutions will receive an added allocation of NIS30 million for “renovations…with an emphasis on accessibility,” and unnamed “historical sites” will also be “established and made accessible.”

“This is significant news,” said Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper. “For the first time culture is included in a five-year-plan for the Arab sector. Culture is an important value and social anchor and a key tool for reducing disparities. A healthy society allows all citizens to consume a diverse and rich culture.”

Ra’am head MK Mansour Abbas tied the funding to the newly found will in government to fight the growing problem of Arab-on-Arab violence, which has been his party’s main announced priority since entering negotiations to join an Israeli government as the first Arab faction to do so in history.

“The program emphasizes what we all know,” he said. “Culture is one of the most important means of reducing disparities, employment, leisure and the eradication of violence in Arab society.”

At least 104 Arab civilians have been killed so far in 2021 alone. The government is thinking of using terror-fighting tools such as administrative detention in an effort to stop the most serious criminal acts, and letting Israel’s internal security agency, the Shabak (Sin Bet), reinforce the police in their investigations. Both ideas are controversial on the Arab street, with many saying that the police have the ability to reduce the crime in their sector if they just had the desire to do so that they exhibit in Jewish towns and cities.

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In terms of raising the Arab employment rate, the hiring of personnel to staff the new institutions will only increase it by a tiny percentage. However, the massive 2021-2026 budget consists of many serious investments in long-term solutions. These include vocational training centers that will restructured to bring students up to date on the most needed kinds of jobs, more day care centers set up to enable Arab women to work, as they are severely underrepresented in the current labor force, and more.