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The ‘Whipped Cream’ Arabs of Israel

Arabs outside of Israel envy Arab citizens of Israel, labeling them "Arab al-Zibda," or "whipped cream Arabs."
Israeli -Arab students during a class at the ORT school in Acco.

Israeli -Arab students during a class at the ORT school in Acco.
Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

Migration to Israel

Some parts of the Arab sector are communities that have lived in the land now called the State of Israel for hundreds of years, but a significant part is the offspring of immigrants who migrated to the country mainly in the first half of the twentieth century, especially after 1882, when Petach Tikva was established. Many people from neighboring lands migrated to the country at that time in order to work in the Jewish farming communities. Many migrated from Egypt even before that, in order to escape forced labor as the Suez canal was being dug. This is how the al-Masri, Masarwa and Fiumi families as well as many others came to the country, with names that testify to their Egyptian source. Other families have Jordanian names (Zarkawi and Karaki, for example), from Syria (al-Hourani, Halabi) from Lebanon (Surani, Sidawi, Trabulsi) and from Iraq (al-Iraqi).

The Arabic dialect spoken by most of the Bedouins in the Negev is a Saudi-Jordanian dialect, and because of their familial ties to tribes living in Jordan, when the Bedouins become involved in matters of blood-vengeance, they escape to family members who live in Jordan. The connection between Arab families in Israel with groups in neighboring countries should not be surprising, because until 1948 the borders of Israel were not hermetically sealed, and many Arabs of “Sham” (Greater Syria) wandered into the country almost totally unimpeded, following their flocks and the expanding employment opportunities .

Traditional v. Modern

The division between traditional and modern outlooks exists in each of the other groups, meaning that in each group indicated above there is a subdivision: those who are more connected to the tradition of the group and those who are less connected. Among the young, one sees more openness and less adherence to tradition and it can be assumed that the young of the next generation will adhere even less to traditions. This is obvious among the Bedouin groups, because among the young there are more than a few who challenge the socially accepted ways of the Bedouin.

Education also plays an important role in the changing attitude toward tradition, because Arab academics are usually less linked to social tradition and the framework of the clan and live more within the framework of nuclear families (father, mother and children). They also tend to move to more open areas such as mixed cities (Acre, Ramla and Lod) and even to Jewish cities, such as Be’er Sheva, Karmiel, and Upper Nazareth) and adopt a modern life-style.

The shift to the city is also connected to a change in the source of livelihood – there are more in the independent professions and less in agriculture – a change that was due partly to the confiscation of absentee property after the War of Independence.

Gender Issues

As in every other society in the world, there is tension between men and women among the various Arab Israeli groups, regarding issues such as the rights of women to learn, to work, to choose a mate, their freedom of behavior, marital age and expected number of children. The Bedouins and the Arabs in the villages and cities relate differently to these issues due to the different levels of exposure to the Jewish sector and due to differences in education and methods of earning a livelihood that exist between the various segments of the Arab sector.

Attitude Towards the State

A primary difference between the Israel’s Jewish and Arab sectors is in their general approach to the state. For most Jews, the State of Israel fulfills two roles: one is the political and governmental embodiment of the aspirations of the Jews to return to themselves and regain the independence and sovereignty over the Land of their fathers that was stolen from them after the destruction of the Second Temple. This is exemplified by the fact that the symbols of the state are Jewish, the national anthem includes the words “the Jewish soul yearns,” the flag represents the Jewish prayer shawl and includes the Shield of David, there is the seven-branched menorah, the Hebrew language is the official language of the state, the governmental institutions are closed on the Jewish holidays. The state has Jewish genes.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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One Response to “The ‘Whipped Cream’ Arabs of Israel”

  1. A very interesting an informative article!

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