By Jerusalem Post Staff November 26, 2002, originally published in JPost

Jewish and Arab university and college students in Israel still feel separated despite inter-group efforts and academic encounters, according to a new first-of-its-kind study commissioned by the Abraham Initiatives and the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation.

According to the study, which surveyed a total of 4,697 Jewish and Arab students and graduates from 12 different institutions, just 15% of Jewish students took part in joint projects/seminars with Arab students, compared to 37% of Arab students. In addition, a majority (58%) of Jewish students claimed to not have had any sort of collaboration with Arab students at all.

The findings also found that over half (60%) of Arab students felt Jews were favored on campus while half (50%) of Jewish students felt the same about Arabs. This is also in line with a majority (58%) of Arab students having experienced discrimination on campus, with only 12% of Jewish students thinking Arabs faced any discrimination at all.

While this divide remains evident, the findings did highlight some common ground, with both Jewish and Arab students feeling a greater sense of belonging together when campuses encourage critical discourse and tolerance.

They also found that having the Arabic language present on campus helps Arab students feel a sense of belonging while not having a negative effect on Jewish students. This reflects an October study by the Abraham Initiatives and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which advocated for greater Arabic language integration into the Israeli school system as a whole to promote coexistence.

It is for this reason that the Abraham Initiatives and the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation recommend academic institutions to encourage inter-group interactions and expand freedom of discourse and expression.

“The research points to opportunities that can be leveraged and ultimately realize the potential of academia… in order to boost feelings of belonging,” Edmond de Rothschild Foundation’s Arab Society Department director Ahmad Mwassi said in a statement.

“We hope this research will serve as a useful tool for decision-makers in order to establish a more just society.”

“We can [encourage] the heads of universities and colleges to put this issue on their agenda,” explained Abraham Initiatives co-CEOs Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu and Thabet Abu Rass.

“Success on this front will improve the academic experience and pave the way for shared living in Israeli society as a whole,” they said.

Donna Rachel Edmunds contributed to this report.

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