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Nearly half of unemployed Israeli Arab teachers would be willing to teach in Jewish schools and over half of Israeli Jewish parents have no objections to Arab teachers in their children's schools, according to a poll published yesterday. The survey was conducted by Merchavim, a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting shared citizenship in Israel. Its findings were presented at a conference at Tel Aviv University on ways to integrate Arab teachers into Jewish schools.

Merchavim researchers cited Education Ministry figures according to which about 8,000 Arab teachers are unable to find work at Arab schools in Israel, while Jewish schools report staffing shortages. Only a few dozen Arab teachers work at Jewish schools. Most teach Arabic, but some teach sciences, English and math.

Of the 170 unemployed Arab teachers who were surveyed, 47 percent said they would be willing to teach in Jewish schools, and an additional 34 percent said they would consider doing so. Only 19 percent said they would refuse.

Among Jewish parents, about 500 of whom responded to the survey, 56 percent said they would be willing to have their children taught by an Arab teacher, while 27.8 percent said that they would not. The researchers said the answers appeared to be influenced by the religiosity of the responders. While 100 percent of the ultra-Orthodox parents said they would only agree to have their children taught by Jews, this response was given by only 43 percent of the respondents who defined themselves as "religious" Jews, 31 percent of those who defined themselves as "traditional" and 16 percent of those who defined themselves as "secular."

"The Ministry of Education needs to become more flexible and to invest more in employing Arab teachers," the founding director of Merchavim, Mike Prashker, said.

"Integrating teachers from different backgrounds will make a number of contributions to both communities. Openig more workplaces will strengthen the Arab community economically, and highly professional Arab teachers can increase the achievements of Jewish students."

"But the greatest achievement will be the bridging between the different groups," Prashker said. "The Israeli reality of segregated education systems creates ignorance and fear of the 'other.'"

Prasker said Merchavim was working toward integrating about 500 Arab teachers into Jewish schools within a few years.