During a tour of Arab communities in the north Tuesday, Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug said she was hopeful about greater integration of Israel’s Arab citizens in the the country’s workforce and in society in general.
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“There’s a sense of something dynamic [happening] and of changes in the Arab sector,” she said. “I’m optimistic. That’s not something that I could have said three or four years ago,” Flug noted on a tour of the towns of Nazereth and Sakhnin.
The country’s Arab population, particularly Arab women, as well as ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who engage in study rather than outside employment, are the two population sectors with the lowest workforce participation. One of the goals of the tour was to examine the challenges and barriers to economic development in Arab communities and to learn what the government is doing to further economic development there.
Among those who toured the area with Flug was Ayman Seif, the director of the economic development authority in the minority sector, an agency within the Prime Minister’s Office.
“The fact that the governor saw fit to tour the Arab sector so early in her term is evidence of the high priority that she attaches to economic development in the Arab sector,” Seif said. Flug was appointed governor in November.
Flug began her tour as a guest of the founder of Iscar Blades, Stef Wertheimer, whose company was ultimately acquired by Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway. Wertheimer described the work of the Nazareth technology business park, which he founded, and spoke of the positive influence of several companies located there on economic development and on coexistence between Jews and Arabs. He cautioned, however, that development efforts needed to be promoted in a careful and measured manner.