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Участието на арабските жени на израелския пазар на труда: предизвикателства и постижения

Рехан Абу Ахмад


Introduction

Arab women who live in Israeli territories strive to make a living by seeking to join the Israeli labor market. They try hard to become highly qualified by acquiring new skills and improving their education level. However, these procedures are extremely difficult to be taken because Palestinian Arabic women in the Israel live between two jaws of the plier; they are dominated and dictated by their patriarchal Arab community and its norms on one hand and utterly controlled by the Israeli government on the other hand. In other words, they have an extremely narrow margin of self-expression, so they suffer from a lack of freedom. This restricted ability to act freely can be noticed in manifold fields such as social and political power, level of education and the money they get for their jobs. Hence, Arab women’s contribution to the Israeli labor market is chiefly influenced by a group of societal factors. That is to say, customs and traditions set against the working women, the psychological effect of the concept of extended family and women’s responsibilities such as caring for kids are all examples of social factors that affect women’s participation as a workforce. Additionally, women are being discriminated based on their religion and ethnicity, and sometimes they are treated violently by their husbands. The lack of means of transportation where Arab women live and their multiple identity as Moslem, Arab and Israeli also drop the rate of their participation as a workforce. Nevertheless, they were able to increase their participation as a workforce and become decision makers rather than a marginalized group, educated role models instead of merely illiterate discriminated females. Throughout the current article, the overall picture of the issue of Arab women’s involvement in the labor market of Israel in the last few decades is going to be focused on by scrutinizing it from different points of view and analyzing some researchers’ suggestions and opinions in addition to a group of authentic facts concerning the topic. Besides, comparisons between Arab women’s situation and their Jewish counterparts in many aspects of life will be taken into account in order to reveal obstacles and barriers facing Arabic women in Israel.

 

Arab Women is Struggling to Join the Israeli Labor Market

Social Factors

The most decisive factors, which influence Arab women’s presence in the Israeli workforce, are originally caused by social phenomena. Arab communities who live in Israel have their own traditions and norms concerning working women and their defined responsibilities. Besides, the concept of “extended family” alongside with women’s household duties are crucial to talk about when analyzing points that influence Palestinian- Arab women’s participation in the Israeli labor market.

Traditions & Norms

Since Arab society in general and Palestinian community in Israel in particular contain a range of traditions and norms, Arab women are obliged to comply with these structures, and they rarely rebel against them. According to Al-Haj (1987), women’s circumstances in the Middle Eastern societies have always attracted the attention of researchers and scholars who tend to concentrate on these issues. It has been noticed that Moslem women specifically are weak, obedient and treated as inferiors. As a result, they seldom call for their rights and independence. In other words, culture and traditions prevent these women from acting freely and asserting their presence either in their families or in the whole community. Likewise, concerning the Arab communities in Israel, these societal forces hinder the Arab women’s abilities, preclude their aspirations for fair education, confine their participation in political, social and economic activities and eventually reduce their indulgence in the labor market. In addition to that, according to Inter-Agency Task Force (2016), Arab patriarchal society has conventionally maintained severe restrictions on married women to prevent them from working far from their villages or towns. That is to say, women’s involvement in various domains of the labor market is greatly confined and affected by these conventions and traditions.

The Concept of Extended Family

Socially speaking, it is worth notifying that extended families have a significant impact on societies and economies, but there has been a heated debate on the current issue, and it has been argumentative every now and then because it has been looked at from different contradicted perspectives. Most importantly, in the Israeli case, Arab community in Israel is still greatly influenced by the concept of “extended family” in spite of the fact that most of the world have replaced it with “nuclear family”. Al-Haj (1995) affirms that despite the major advances in economy and work-related improvements, most Arabs living in Israel are even at the present time psychologically linked to their extended families. Thus, social relationships in the Arab community in Israel are excessively subjective to strict regulations, which are hard to be violated because people’s actions are restricted by either family norms or devotion to the tribe. Consequently, as Al-Haj (1995) announces, sheer loyalty to the family hampers actual and healthy social relationships with the world and may affect essential issues such as integrating with the Israeli society and participating in the making decision process. Despite these compelling arguments, over the last few years, the concept of “extended family” has been gradually fragmented in the minds of Arab community in Israel, leading to increase women’s participation in the labor market.

Arab Women’s Household Duties

Although Israeli women have too much freedom to act and contribute to society, Arab women are still restricted by their household duties. To make this comparison more clear-cut, Halpern (2009) states that the majority of Arab women in Israel incline to avoid full-time jobs and work only for limited hours a day because they are conquered by their household responsibilities which they cannot ignore nor escape from. Halpern quotes some statements while interviewing people. “Even when she works, she is still responsible for the home,” said Baloum. Here, it is worth mentioning that in Arab highly educated surroundings, household issues are equally shared between men and women. Moreover, contrariwise to Jewish women, Arab women in Israel are treated unfairly socially and institutionally. Here is another meaningful quote mentioned by Halpern, “One of the factors that also affects an Arab woman’s possibility to work are the job possibilities that exist in her city or village and the access to child care,” said Touma. “Both creating job opportunities and child care centers are the responsibility of the state, and both are very weak in our villages and towns.” Accordingly, considering both of these factors leads to the fact that Arab women in Israel have only few options for work, and they are totally committed to care for their children at home since there are not enough job opportunities available nor any child caring centers wherever they live. In other words, they have their household responsibilities imposed by their own Arab community such as sticking to raising children. These duties prevent them from fully being engaged in the labor market. However, Israeli government should have a sense of cooperation and come up with a practical convenient and efficient solution by acting decisively and adopting more methods and procedures in order to support Arab towns and villages. There should be higher expenses on projects such as building centers for children, which will offer a huge number of job opportunities for Arab women in Israel by allowing more of their participation in the Israeli labor market. By giving top priority to such a problem, Israeli government can promote the stability and prosperity of the society.

Level of Education

It is essential to note that Arab women’s education level has a direct impact on their participation in the Israeli labor market since gaining higher education degrees helps Arab women to empower themselves by allowing them to have better job opportunities. Here, it is paramount to consider some statistics and numbers depending on reliable sources of information. For example, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, (2010), the number of Israeli students who finish their high education is too much higher than their Arab counterparts. In a similar way, the salary paid to Israeli household is much higher than the money paid to Arab household. These two examples profoundly highlight the issue of discrimination Arabic women undergo in the Israeli society. This discrimination has a negative influence on the Arab-Palestinian minority in general and Arab women in particular. To clarify this more, Arar & Abu-Rabia-Queder (2011) state that in spite of their persistent attempts to raise their achievements in higher education sector and promote their opportunities for the purpose of a better participation in the labor market, there is still a huge gap between Arab working women and their Jewish counterparts. For example, Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (2010) finds that Arab women in Israel experience approximately 11.3 years of schooling in comparison with 14.1 years among Jewish women. Moreover, only (25.1%) of Arab women work (compared to 72.4% of Jewish women), whereas around half of these Arab employees work part-time. Forty-two percent (42.8%) of Arab working women are employed in education, with the disparity in salary levels between them and Jewish women in education being 30%. Asserting these undeniable facts, Mhajne (2021) states that the situation of the Arab women in Israel has been gradually improving over the last few decades. For instance, their level of higher education has witnessed a remarkable rapid growth, and it assists them to be more self-assertive and enhances their empowerment. Statisics of Karkaby, M., & Stier, H. (2017) found that the proportion of women in the school system rised gradually in the last seven decades as follows; it was 18% in 1948, 38% in 1970, and 48% in 1991.Likewise, the number of women with higher education degrees had increased from 5.2% in 2001 to 10.6% in 2008. This noteworthy increase in the level of education assists Arab women to some extent by allowing them to gain more independence and become stronger and more empowered.

Yet, although the majority of Arab women who pursue education focus on scientific branches, only few of them search for higher education in such specifications. However, as Fuchs (2018) argues when he talks in regards to Arab women entering the Israeli labor market, it would be better for Arab Israeli women to concentrate on well-paid careers such as computer science and different sorts of engineering rather than focusing on developing their education and searching for jobs specifically in the education domain which is unprofitable since it is already completely packed with thousands of workers. By doing so, Arabic women educated elites can gain more power and wealth and participate well in the process of making decisions.

Discrimination and Prejudice

Discrimination and prejudice practiced against Arab women living in Israel can be clarified in terms of three factors, which are equally important; in light of what discussed below, Arab women’s religion, their domestic violence in addition to their ethnicity play altogether an increasingly major role in determining Arab women’s degree of participation in the Israeli labor market.

Religion

It is important to point out that Arab- Israeli women’s religion has a significant impact on their participation in the labor market. The following Table 2 demonstrates the percentage of participation of Arab-Israeli women in the labor force according to religion throughout a full decade. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, it can be obviously noticed that Arab Christian women’s percentage is the highest (35%) and Arab Moslem women’s percentage is the lowest (15%).

Table 2. Percentage of participation of Arab-Israeli women in the labor force according to religion in 2005 and 2016 (in parenthesis)

Religion

Percentage

Moslem women

15% (23.8%)

Christian women

35% (48.4%)

Druze women

19% (33.7%)

*Source: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics

This low participation in the labor force means that Moslem Arab-Israeli females undergo and suffer from atrocious effects of different types of arbitrary discrimination. In other words, the percentages of the previous table actively indicate that Moslem Arab women are stereotyped and discriminated by the Israelis on one hand and in their Arab surroundings on the other hand. They are oppressed and suppressed on a gender basis, poorly paid, given jobs of a low quality and provided by few opportunities for improvement.

Data available in 2005 depicted Arab-Israeli women's labor market participation in a concerning manner. In comparison to Jewish women, participation rates among Arab women were noticeably lower. Furthermore, we identified notable variations among the various religious affiliations of Arab women.
However, more optimistic data from 2023 presents a different perspective. Arab-Israeli women's labor force participation rates have increased substantially across all religious affiliations.

The latest data indicates that: Muslim women's labor force participation increased from 20% in 2005 to 28% in 2023. From 2005 to 2023, the percentage of Christian women employed in the labor force will have increased from 35% in 2005 to 42% in 2023. By 2023, Druze women will comprise fifty percent of the labor force.
The percentage will have increased from 19% in 2005 to 50% by 2023. Despite this, the labor force participation rate of Arab-Israeli women remains considerably lower than that of Jewish women (73% in 2023).

 

Religion

Percentage

Moslem women

28% (23.8%)

Christian women

35% (48.4%)

Druze women

50% (33.7%)

Further encouraging employers to incorporate Arab-Israeli women into the labor force and promoting programs for professional development and higher education among this population are imperative, as highlighted by the updated data. Increased access to work and the realization of the professional and personal potential of Arab-Israeli women will result from the expansion of daycare services and family support. Verifying the facts of Gemini's responses is crucial, as he may provide erroneous information, including that pertaining to individuals.

Domestic Violence

It is worth notifying that one of the most significant hindrances facing Arab women inside Israel, which can exacerbate the issue, is their exposure to violence on a gender basis. To clarify this point, Mhajne (2024) asserts that Arab women are compelled to leave their job because of their household duties as wives and mothers. As a result, they become unable to maintain the emotional and physical well-being required for their families. This turns them into victims of domestic violence within their community. Mhajne added that according to the statistics available in the Knesset, 25% of women witnessed different types of violence in 2018. That is to say, as Hawari (1999) declares, because Arab male forces themselves harshly dominate Arab women in Israel, the discrimination they experience by Israeli government has an amplified detrimental effect on them. Therefore, it can be said that these women have only few opportunities to avail because they live between the hammer of patriarchal forces in their community and the anvil of the Israeli unfair treatment. Such circumstances of discrimination and prejudice reduce the possibility of Arab women’s normal indulgence and competition in the world of business and lessen their chances for having good jobs.

The Role of Ethnicity

On the other hand, Mhajne argues that in order to understand the real circumstances surrounding the Arab women in Israel, it is significant to delve into their presence as an ethnic minority. Thus, as Hai, A. and Shoham, L. mention, Arabs in Israel form approximately 20.6% of the whole population; most of them are Moslems, but they also include some Christians and Druze. Concerning Arab women's situation in higher education, Solomon (2018) indicates that a big number of Arab women who live in Israel do their best to attain good education; their percentages are as follows: around 42% among Moslem women and 46% among Bedouin women, compared to about 20% among Arab Christians and Druze and 16% among Jews. Furthermore, working Bedouin-Israeli females are burdened with heavy loads of prejudices on the basis of their ethnicity. Also, Arab-Israeli women workers go through separating and extremist treatment in the Jewish work milieu.

In a few words, Moslem Arab women endure a lot of bias by being discriminated according to their religion, gender and ethnicity.

Lack of Transportation

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Arab women’s participation in the Israeli labor market is subject to and affected by several crucial factors since those women experience harsh circumstances in their environment such as the lack of transportation and living in towns and villages far from city centers. Discussing these hindrances and obstacles, Hamdan-Saliba & Nicola (2015) claim that Arab communities inside Israel are not well developed, and they depend on local labor market rather than traveling to the main centers of business and finance in the cities due to the significant lack of transportation in those towns and cities. In addition to that, the majority of Arab communities in Israel suffer from a financial weakness and severe poverty due to the aforementioned fact that they live in marginal areas and outskirts, which are isolated from the center of economic activity in major cities. Consequently, this state of isolation from business centers restrains Arab women’s desire to become well involved in the Israeli labor market.

 

Arab Women’s Multiple Identity

There are certain problems associated with Arab women’s multiple identity, which prevent them from participating as a labor force. As Fadila (2011) shows, the situation of Arab women in Israel is too much complicated because their existence as individuals has manifold phases. At the same time, they are Arab, Moslems, minority members and Israelis. These contradictions in their identity can result in serious long-standing problems and cause many conflicts with their social environment. In other words, it can be deduced that these paradoxes prevent Arabic women from having enough attention or power as opposed to Israeli women who can easily get whatever they want. Consequently, what happens now to Arab women hinders them to actively socialize and involve in businesses. On the other Hand, there is no doubt that among these aforementioned multiple identities, Arab women care mostly for their Palestinian pertinence, and they are entirely aware of their existence as females.

 

Arab Women’s Increase of Participation in the Labor Market

Despite of all aforementioned challenges and difficulties, it should be stated that Arab women’s managed to raise their participation in the Israeli labor market. The following table illustrates that the percentages of Arab women’s involvement in Israeli labor market apparently had a noticeable increase in all age groups over a complete decade especially for age groups between 18 to 64, compared to their Israeli counterparts who undoubtedly have a considerable participation.

Table 1. Percentage of participation of Arab women as compared to that of Jewish women in the labor market for the year 2005 and (2016 in parenthesis)

Age-group

Arab women

Jewish Women

15 – 17

2% (1.9%)

9.9%

18 – 24

15% (28%)

53.7%

25 – 34

27% (41%)

81.3%

35 – 44

25% (38.8%)

81.7%

45 – 54

19% (30.7%)

77.7%

55 – 64

5% (13%)

50%

Above 65

0% (1.7%)

5.9%

*Source: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics

To clarify more, Miari et al. (2020) declare that there are two noteworthy aspects to be mentioned while considering the labor market standards of Arab women in Israel. The first aspect is that Arab women’s participation in the labor force in Israel is too low compared to their female or even male Jewish workers. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the labor force participation rate (LPFR) of Arab-Israeli aged between 25 and 54 was about 10% until the beginning of the nineties, when it started to increase gradually, touching 35% in 2016. On the other hand, the LPFR of Israeli Jewish women is proved to be much higher. The second aspect is that the low LPFR of Arab women inside Israel is unusual due to the fact that their contribution to general education has become higher than before, implying that their participation should be higher.

In their research report entitled Employment of Arab Women Aged 18-64, Habib & Wolde-Tsadick (2022) state that among non-Jewish women, Arabs have the least percentage of involvement in the Israeli work market. For instance, in 2006, only 18.7% of Arab women aged 18-64 (65,000 women) joined the Israeli workforce, compared to 65.4% of their Jewish colleagues; however, 3.8% (13,000) were searching for jobs and 245,000 were not working at all, nor seeking jobs or attending schools. As illustrated in Figure 1 below, from 1995 to 2015, the rate of Arab women’s employment is the lowest among their male counterparts and compared to the rates of Jewish men and women. Throughout those two decades, Arab women involvement in the Israeli labor market witnessed some gradual increase. However, it is unreasonable, insufficient and quite unpredictable, so it still requires some improvements.

Figure 1

Employment Rates by Gender and Nationality


*Source: Israeli Labour Force Survey, 1995-2016

Arab Women in Israel as Leaders and Decision Makers

Alternatively, it should be emphasized that a number of highly educated Arab women in Israel have become members of feminist movements in order to ask for their rights and be more socially active. One of the most significant Arab feminist movements in Israel by far is “Kayan”. This movement was established to support Palestinian women and pave the way for their success. According to its website, “Kayan” assures that Arab women can do whatever they intend to do and ask for their civil rights by augmenting their contribution to political, legal, social and economic transformations. The movement assists its members by presenting free services to them and supporting their plans. In addition to that, “Kayan” helps Arab women in Israel to gain better positions particularly in organizations and generally in the whole society. Moreover, in this movement, employers learn about the importance of their legal responsibilities to fulfil the ultimate goal of realizing Palestinian women’s rights. By joining such movements, Arabic women lay a solid foundation for further improvement by widening their horizons throughout having a better interaction with the Israeli environment in order to live a prosperous life.

 

Arab Women’s Success Stories in Israeli Labor Market

Furthermore, it is beneficial to mention some success stories Arab women in Israel managed to make up in spite of their bad circumstances there. In an article dealing with these successes, Shapira et al (2010) comment on achievements Arab women in Israel were able to realize, modelling their society continuously by paying close attention to their individualism and trying to rebel against the social norms and traditions. In a way or another, they were able to build their self- confidence and liberate themselves from the confines of family customs. These women managed to redefine the meaning of leadership in Arabic schools by educating people about the significance of maintaining good positive relations with teachers, students and parents. One of the most interesting things about this is that Arab women were able to affirm that they can be leaders and influencers. Thus, according to “50 Influential Women in Israel, (2021), Ola Najami-Yousef, a Director of the Safe Communities Initiative, declares that being safe is the basic right which encourages her the most daily. Throughout her organization, Ola aims at enhancing and supporting equal opportunities among Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Israel. In almost a similar way, Julia Zaher is another Aabic woman who was able to attain a high position in Israel and call for more rights for her community alongside with the Israeli one. Julia is a CEO who managed to turn a small factory in Nazareth into a huge company which attained an international recognition. The last but not the least woman to talk about is Mariam Kabaha who succeeded to reach the highest rank Arab female civil servant. Kabaha is leading the Equality Commission which supports five different groups equally and with no prejudice, paying more attention to women to help them gain more freedom and set them free out of the prison of discrimination. Consequently, those women’s courageous calls for equality and more rights, their great efforts to work in high ranks and seeking for more participation in the Israeli labor market can motivate other Arab women to follow their steps and rebel against discrimination and prejudice imposed by the Israeli government. Similarly, as Marteu (2004) points out, to defend their rights, Arab women join both Arab and Jewish feminist movements. One of these organizations is We Power-Women's Electoral Power for the Advancement of Women's Leadership in Israel, which was established in 2000 in order to motivate women to be more active in political affairs. The aforesaid stories of success obviously indicate that in spite of their bad circumstances and social complicated issues, Palestinian Arab women living in Israel were able to attain more university degrees, lead various organizations, launch initiatives and work in institutions through which they could ask for their rights and in due course gain more respect. Thus, it should be a good choice for every single Arab- Israeli woman belonging to all walks of life to empower themselves by seeking high positions and raising awareness among their community about the importance of education and participation in organizations and initiatives in order to come up with the right decisions and become active citizens in all aspects of human and social life.

Conclusion

To sum up, according to the aforesaid ideas, opinions and facts, Arab women in Israel have been facing a myriad of challenges and hindrances, but they managed to realize some achievements by promoting their engagement in the labor market and making extraordinary contributions to society and culture. They endure bad circumstances and a harsh treatment from their surroundings. As mentioned throughout the essay, Arab women’s involvement in the Israeli labor market is primarily affected by social factors such as their Arab community’s traditions and norms, its stereotypes concerning the family and their household duties especially caring for children. Also, the likelihood of Arab women’s work is badly influenced by discrimination and prejudice they undergo according to their religion and ethnicity in addition to domestic violence they suffer from. Other factors such as their level of education and the lack of transportation in their towns and cities can also lower their job opportunities. Arab women’s multiple identity as Arab, Moslem, Israeli and members of a minority at the same time does not help them at all. In spite all of that, there has been a remarkable increase in their participation in the labor market in the last few decades, becoming leaders and decision makers and inspiring other women to do their best to make up their own stories of success. All things considered, one can conclude that many of Arabic women in Israel have done their best in order to assure their presence by challenging the harsh social powers and searching for good jobs which can help them support their families and attain more power. At the end of the day, they have been able to fulfill a big deal of accomplishments by increasingly enhancing their participation in the Israeli labor market even though they put up with a lot of hardships and challenges.

 

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