The Israeli Arab Experience

From Women's Empowerment collection, lesson plan 7 of 8

(90-120 minutes + assignments)

Grade Level: 9-12, College

Subject areas: Social Studies, Civics, Government, Geography, Global Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Language Arts, Economics, World History

Purpose of the lesson: Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel comprise 1.3 million people, or around 20 percent of the population. As a group, they face a unique status and particular struggles. Students will investigate this group and how the film Shadya draws attention to a population rarely exposed in the media. Students will then use their research skills to take a deeper look at a minority group in another country and present their findings and recommendations online.


Students will:

• Consider findings regarding discrimination faced by Arab citizens of Israel

• Examine the experiences of Israeli Arabs through a very personalized view of a young female athlete

• Prepare and present a research project on another minority group


Stating and supporting opinions in class discussions and in writing; analytical reading and viewing; note taking; interpreting information and drawing conclusions; critical thinking; identifying cause and effect; identifying relationships and patterns.

Materials:Shadya “An Israeli Arab’s Experience” Film Module (can be streamed or ordered on DVD) • Computers with Internet access and/or with DVD capability • LCD projector or DVD player • Whiteboard/markers, or chalkboard/chalk • Shadya Discussion GuideStudent Handout A: “An Israeli Arab’s Experience” Note Taking GuideStudent Handout B: Shadya QuotesStudent Handout C: Research Project Rubric


Have students visit the blog pages to assess their classmates using Student Handout C: Research Project Rubric. You can also use the same rubric to do a teacher evaluation of the projects.

National teaching standards addressed:

Grades 9-12

National standards from the following organizations were used in developing this lesson plan. See Recommended National Standards for full descriptions of standards employed.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel)

Center for Civic Education

National Council for the Social Studies

National Center for History in the Schools

National Geographic

National Council for Teachers of English/International Reading Association

North American Association for Environmental Education

Writer: David Maduli

David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and continues to work as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher.

Previewing Activity

Note to teacher: This lesson should be preceded by other lessons or embedded within a unit about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict; students should first have an understanding of the geography, history and context in which the film takes place. This lesson and film module should be presented as another perspective on the conflict, and Israeli Arabs should be identified as a group with a unique and seldom-documented position in the conflict.

  1. Introduction to Israeli Arabs: Read this background information from page 2 of the Shadya Discussion Guide aloud with the class:

    Israeli Arabs

    When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, some Palestinians were forced to leave, others fled, and still others stayed. This latter group was granted citizenship, and they are now referred to as “Israeli Arabs.” They constitute 15 percent to 20 percent of Israel’s population. Of the 1.3 million Israeli Arabs, approximately 80 percent are Muslim. Others are Christian or Druze. Many Israeli Arab families have Palestinian relatives living in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli Arabs have the right to vote and have elected representatives in Israel’s parliament. However, they also experience significant discrimination. Some of the discrimination is institutional, a result of the fact that Israel is legally defined as a Jewish state; some of it results from ethnic and religious tensions between Israel’s Arab Muslims and Jewish citizens.

    Have students write quick responses to these sentence stems:

    • I did not know…
    • I want to know more about…
    • The situation of Israeli Arabs reminds me of…
  2. The Struggles Israeli Arabs Face: Have students read “Advancing Coexistence and Equality Among Jews and Arabs In Israel: A Platform for Action” from The Abraham Fund website, and the main findings of the Mossawa Center’s Racism Report 2009 from their website which document social, economic, and educational disparities and incidents of violence faced by Arab citizens in Israel. Discuss the following questions with the class:

    • What data was provided documenting disparities faced by Israeli Arabs? What does it tell us about what life is like for Israeli Arabs in terms of social, economic, legal and political status?
    • How are the struggles of Israeli Arabs similar and different to Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and neighboring countries?
    • How are Israeli Arabs and Jews impacted by violence or threats of violence in Israel? Examine similarities and differences.
    • What institutional barriers are there which prevent ‘peaceful coexistence’?
    • The Abraham Fund website poses this question: “How can Israel best maintain its identity as a Jewish nation-state, and simultaneously honor its commitment–enshrined in it’s Declaration of Independence–to uphold the principle of equality for all its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike?
    • The Abraham Fund and the Mossawa Center work to increase dialogue and create programs and strategies to fight anti-Arab racism is Israel. What organizing strategies do they use? (Refer to Teacher Handout A: Organizing Strategies).
  3. Discussion on Advocacy for Israeli Arabs: The Mossawa Center is the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that works to promote equality for the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. Post the Mossawa Center’s mission statement for the students to read:

    The Mossawa Center seeks to improve the social, economic, legal and political status of the Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel. The Center believes in the recognition of the Arab community in Israel as a national minority without sacrificing cultural rights as Palestinians. The Mossawa Center works to build a democratic society lacking racism and fighting all kinds of discrimination based on national, religious, ethnic, status, gender, physical and mental disability.

    Have students write quick responses to these questions:

    • What does it mean to be a national minority?
    • What groups in the U.S. might face similar struggles as a national minority?
    • What are some organizations in the U.S. that advocate for Arab citizens or other minority groups using a similar approach and philosophy as the Mossawa Center? (One example might be the NAACP.)

    Call on students to share their views.

  4. Provide Background Information on Israel and Shadya: Briefly introduce the film Shadya. Note how the film module will examine Arab Israelis as a national minority group, and look at the lives of Shadya, a young Israeli Arab world karate champion and her family. Have students read the Shadya Discussion Guide page 1 regarding the filmmakers’ intent, especially their intent to capture the diverse population of Israel that includes Israeli Arabs, the fact that Arab Muslims are accepted by many Israelis and the difficult choices Shadya has to make as a young Arab woman representing and living in Israel. Also have students read Shadya Discussion Guide page 2 for more background information on the film.

    Viewing the Film

  5. Viewing the Film Module: Instruct students to take notes on Student Handout A: “An Israeli Arab’s Experience” Note Taking Guide as they view the “An Israeli Arab’s Experience” Film Module. Students should look at the varying acceptance and discrimination Shadya and her family experience as Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, vis-à-vis relationships with her Israeli teammates and coach, politicians, Jewish citizens and other Palestinians.

    Reflecting on the Film

  6. Review and Discuss: Debrief the module and notes by discussing together as a class. Have students review Student Handout B: Shadya Quotes before the discussion. Use the following questions as a guide for class discussion:

    • Describe Shadya’s relationship with her teammates and coach. How and when does her Arab identity become an issue?
    • How does Shadya react when she encounters the Palestinian team? What is her dilemma?
    • How does her sport both enter into and transcend politics?
  7. Preparation for Research Project: Discuss possible differences between the treatment of Arabs in Israel and the treatment of Arabs in the U.S. Divide students into several small groups and have each group read one titled section of “100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans: A Journalist’s Guide” from the Detroit Free Press. Have groups report back describing:

    • What information is most crucial to understanding the group? What information is the most misunderstood?
    • Which answers are surprising or less publicized?
    • How does dispelling stereotypes and providing accurate information help combat racism and discrimination against minority groups?
    • Who else can information like this benefit (besides journalists)?

    Have students also review and compare the descriptions of [Arabs] ( and [Palestinians] ( as “minorities at risk” in Israel from the Minorities at Risk Project website and find out:

    • What rights do Israeli Arabs enjoy as full citizens of Israel? What limitations do they face socially, culturally and politically?
    • What demands are Israeli Arabs fighting for from their government? Why is anti-Arab discrimination worsening?
    • What are the differences between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in terms of their rights and the discrimination they face?
  8. Assignment: Research Project: Using the “Hot Spots” page of the Minorities at Risk Project from the University of Maryland, have students select a minority group in another country to research. They should compile a list of questions about this group (similar to the Detroit Free Press list; they can use the same topic headings), and then find the answers, narrowing the list to 20 pertinent questions and answers. Then they should compose a list of 5-10 recommendations or steps that should be taken to improve the conditions of the group politically, socially, culturally and/or economically. As a final step, they should post their report on a blog or other Web 2.0 tool. Students can also submit final creations to Youth Noise or Youth Media [Exchange] ( to engage with other students around the world and get feedback.

Students can:

  1. Research peace organizations in Israel. Focus on organizations that offer an agenda that unites Arab and Palestinian citizens with Israeli citizens in seeking a solution to the conflict in the country.

  2. Research notable individuals, leaders, civic organizations and activist groups who are representing and advocating for Arab citizens of Israel.

  3. Examine the role of sports in the politics of the minority group. Students could look at the Olympics and/or other international competitions for case studies describing the ways that sports can be used politically. They can also investigate how sports can transcend minority group and national politics.

  4. Explore the dual identity issue by conducting interviews with people from various immigrant groups of differing generations about the extent to which they feel accepted in the U.S. and their home country. Students can also interview people of mixed ethnic heritage about the extent to which they feel accepted by both ethnic groups of which they are a part.

  5. Investigate how Israeli Arabs view Palestinians, and vice versa.

  • Film module:
    Shadya: An Israeli Arab’s Experience
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