Israel’s Arab Citizens Series: The Arab Glass Ceiling
Not that it’s easy to start up a business in the Arab sector. Said explains how, in a place like Herzliya, a business can outfit an office within 24 hours. “Here, in Nazareth, it took us three months to set things up. It took me three months to convince Bezeq [the country’s principal phone company] to install a fiber-optics line. And this building is the only one in the Arab sector with built-in sprinklers for fires.”
At the coffee shop in Baka al-Garbiyah, Afif Abu Much tells me how lucky he is because not only does he have a job as an engineer, but SAP Labs Israel encourages his community work. He has warm words for the company’s general director, Mickey Steiner, who he says “is like a father to the people who work for him.” Every so often, Steiner and other senior managers invite staff engineers to meet with them for “morning coffee,” to discuss their questions and suggestions about the company’s work. Describing it, Abu Much becomes wistful: “If only the government would adopt an idea like ‘morning coffee’…if they wouldn’t treat us like suspects, like traitors.
“What bothers me is the feeling that I don’t count. I don’t mind being a minority, but you have to treat me with respect,” says Abu Much, who plans to get married in the spring when his three-story house with an adjoining garden is finished. But he makes it clear that the problem is a two-way street. He is convinced that some Arabs don’t do enough to exploit the opportunities that exist. “It’s true that the state doesn’t let members of minority groups advance and integrate,” he says. “But Arabs need to do some soul searching and begin to act on their own.” It can be easier to blame the system than to persist in contacting Kav Mashve’s unemployment hotline. “If I were unemployed, I would be calling up the hotline every day. If you don’t help yourself, I can’t help you.”