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Arab Communities in Israel

The geographical area that today constitutes the State of Israel is, unarguably, contested and under constant international scrutiny. The dispute, which is often referred to as the Arab-Israeli conflict, has its roots in a long history of conflict over territorial control, which continues to be fueled by colonial, ideological, religious, and political motives.

For example, one result of what is now considered the first Arab-Israeli war (the war that occurred in 1948, which is associated with the establishment of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba) was the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians. The vast majority of these refugees ended up in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Only refugees in Jordan were granted Jordanian citizenship, whereas those in other areas are still today living in refugee camps. During this time, about 150,000 Palestinians stayed in Israel and became Israeli citizens. Today, these people are commonly referred to as Israeli Arabs or Palestinian citizens of Israel (Margalith, 1953; Waxman, 2012). Despite numerous efforts to bring peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinians (e.g., the Oslo Peace Accords), the issue of Palestinian refugees is still not resolved and remains a key subject at every peace negotiation regarding the broader Arab- Israeli conflict. Today, the Arab minority in Israel’s constitutes about 20% of country’s population.[1] Despite holding Israeli citizenship, Israel’s Arab population has been chronically and systematically underserved compared to Israel’s Jewish citizens.

In terms of tourism, Israel attracts travelers from all over the world, in large part, because of the country’s linkage to the three major Abrahamic religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Israel Ministry of Tourism, 2014). With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, tourism broadened from purely spiritual travelling to also include leisure and recreational tourism (Israel Ministry of Tourism, 2014). Along with its religious, cultural and historical attractions, the country today offers a diverse tourism product that highlights the pleasant climate, diverse landscape, modern leisure offers, and international events; all within the small geographical area of the country (Gelbman, 2008; Israel Ministry of Tourism, 2014). Despite the wealth of tourisms sites and opportunities in Israel, many of Israel’s Arab communities lack the capacity and ability to fully participate in the tourism sector, which has resulted in a substantial gap compared to other communities in the country.

  • [1] The authors refer here to the internationally recognized boundaries of the State of Israel, whichexcludes the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
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