Arab Women in Israel Live in Fear of the State, Study Shows

Sense of personal security lowest among Arab women, who fear home demolition, crime and domestic violence.

An Arab woman watching a match between Bnei Sakhnin and Beitar Jerusalem, January 2016.
Nir Keidar

Israelis in general have a low sense of personal security, but Arab women feel even more vulnerable than other population groups, according to a new study that was recently presented to the Knesset.

The study, carried out by Shelly Mizrahi-Simon of the Knesset’s research center, examined various aspects of Israelis’ sense of personal security, ranging from how safe they feel in public spaces to how they rate their employment, health and economic security. Commissioned by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, the study surveyed a representative sample of 1,028 Israeli adults, more than half of them women.

The study found that 59 percent of women and 54 percent of men said they worried about damaging behavior by state agencies that would negatively affect their personal security. Among Arab women, however, the figure soared to 74 percent, compared to 59 percent of Jewish women born in Israel, 51 percent of ultra-Orthodox women and 49 percent of female immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

In particular, a whopping 54 percent of Arab women feared their houses would be demolished by the state.

Similar gaps between Jewish and Arab women were evident in other areas. For instance, six percent of women overall feared that a member of their family would injure someone outside the family. But among Arab women, the rate was 30 percent.

Moreover, while only four percent of women overall feared physical assault by a family member and five percent feared sexual assault by a relative, the figures among Arab women were 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

Overall, 20 percent of women and 24 percent of men said they wouldn’t feel safe calling the police. But here, too, Arab women felt more vulnerable than their Jewish counterparts: The 67 percent of Arab women who said they would feel safe calling the police was significantly lower than the rate among Jewish women born in Israel (77 percent), ultra-Orthodox women (79 percent) and female immigrants from the former Soviet Union (80 percent).

“I commissioned this survey in honor of International Women’s Day, out of a desire to broaden the public debate over the concept of security to include various aspects of personal security,” said MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint Arab List), who chairs the Committee on the Status of Women. “The survey’s results reflect a worrying situation in which the sense of the security among the population in general is poor, as is trust in state agencies, and women are clearly in an even worse situation, while Arab woman essentially live in fear. Therefore, we must work to advance concrete solutions that will increase feelings of security, especially when dealing with various government offices.”