In Israel, Arab magnanimity toward another minority

 In an apparent gesture of empathy, the leader of an Arab party in the ruling Israeli coalition asks that money for his community be shared with the minority ultra-Orthodox community.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Sept. 22.

In the Middle East, moments of bridge building between adversaries are always worth noting, especially if the bridge is built on empathy.

On Tuesday, the leader of Israel’s minority Arabs made an unexpected gesture toward another minority. Mansour Abbas of the Raam party said he had asked the government to give a portion of $9.4 billion slated for Israeli Arabs to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, or the Haredim.

“We prefer to use the money for things which are important to us. That would include friends,” he told Kan Bet media, citing a wish for the two minorities to get along. He said he was moved by a recent speech in parliament by Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party about hardships in the Haredim and the need for “weaker” parts of Israeli society to band together.

Mr. Abbas’ conciliatory request to share money due for his own community “makes him among the most refreshing figures on the Israeli political scene,” wrote The Jerusalem Post, adding that the gesture is “magnanimous,” a quality often lacking among parties that “view one another as mortal enemies.” (Many Israelis refer to Arabs living within Israel proper as Palestinians.)

Perhaps the gesture was made easier because Israel has enjoyed five months of governance under a rare ruling coalition of Jewish parties from the right and left as well as Raam, the first time that an Arab party has been part of a coalition. The Jewish politician who put the diverse coalition together, Yair Lapid, says its main purpose is to “find the shared good.” The government has been able to agree on a budget for the first time since 2019.

Politics in a democracy do not always have to be zero-sum battles or even a transactional splitting of differences. Often it is minorities who, out of shared suffering from being on the outside looking in, develop empathy to alleviate the misery of others. That can change the narrative from simply winning political contests toward one with a mutual vision for society. 

Bridge building starts with cornerstones of listening, especially to those on the margins.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to In Israel, Arab magnanimity toward another minority
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today