This article in NJ Jewish News features the work of our own Phyllis Bernstein (among others): “Gaza war throws focus on Israeli minorities.” These are snippets that focus on Phyllis:
. . . A year ago, the federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee established the Israeli Arab Committee. It is cochaired by Phyllis Bernstein of Westfield, Jim Paul of Summit, and Carol Simon of Millburn. . . .
To Bernstein, Arab equality is an issue of burning importance.
In the wake of the eight-week Operation Protective Edge, which began July 8, she said, “relations between Jews and Arabs have deteriorated in many parts of Israel, and that has lasting effects,” she told NJ Jewish News in a Sept. 17 phone interview.
“Arabs were targeted with comments on social media. They lost their jobs. Jews and Arabs did not travel to each other’s towns, and Arab businesses suffered. Arabs were beaten up in public by Jews, and it became commonplace to hear ‘Death to Arabs’ on the streets — and that is not a good thing.”
Bernstein is particularly concerned with the situation of the Bedouins in the Negev, a region that is especially vulnerable to rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. (Last month, responding to complaints that the Bedouin lacked shelters, the UK chapter of the Jewish National Fund purchased three mobile bomb shelters for Rahat, a predominantly Bedouin city.)
‘In our interest’
In February, Bernstein and her husband, Robert Kuchner, who is chair of the federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee, visited Bedouin communities and schools that Arab and Jewish children attend together.
She believes multi-ethnic education is one way to overcome Israel’s social and economic inequities.
“Helping minorities is good for the country,” she told NJJN. “We as American Jews know that because we are a minority. We want all Israeli citizens to succeed.”
. . . “This is a turning point,” Bernstein insisted. “Either we accelerate all these fragmentations and tensions and economic issues — which will hurt society — and eventually they are going to erupt. Or we will help these people. If we give them the education and opportunity that exists
“It’s clear that Israel has a clear choice: Pursue a path toward a shared society or continue toward more manifestations of racism toward Arabs in Israel,” Bernstein asserted. . . .