chapter  2
25 Pages


The primary purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the socialeducational implications of Israel's ethnic composition. Some of the salient changes that occurred in the social and educational conditions prevailing among the various ethnic groups are also considered. These topics are discussed in terms of their relationships to school desegregation. Any analysis of school desegregation (i.e., the ethnic mix in the Jewish majority's schools and classrooms) should be conducted against the background of Israel's social structure and development. The education of Israeli Arabs and the possible integration of Jewish and Arab schools are discussed toward the end of the chapter. The chief ethnic division in Israel is between citizens of Western origin and those of Middle Eastern origin. The primary characteristic of this division is of a cultural nature. The Israeli case may thus shed light on the more general question of whether and to what extent the processes of modernization of peoples from non-Western countries may enfold successfully without disturbing in the process much of the indigenous traditional culture. The Jewish settlers of modern Palestine from the late nineteenth century up to the establishment of the State in 1948 were predominantly of European origin and Western culture. In fact, more than 90% of Israel's inhabitants in 1948 were of European background. At that time, mass immigration was instituted, doubling the population over the first 3 years of statehood, and tripling it over the first 12. It is the origins of the immigrants, however, and not their numbers, that are of interest here. Since independence,

only about 50% of the new immigrants were of Western origin, the rest coming from Middle Eastern Jewish communities (mainly Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and North Africa). Toward the end of the 1970s, the proportion of Jewish citizens of Middle Eastern origin (whether born abroad or in Israel) was 45% of the total Jewish population (Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1977). Israel's independence coincided with, and probably encouraged, an on-going trend of Arab nationalism in practically the entire region. Consequently many of the Jews in the area felt insecure, some even encountered violence. Under these circumstances, many of these Jews naturally reacted favorably to the newly established State's call for immigration.