The mission of the Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues (GWFIA) is to educate the Washington Jewish community about:
- Jewish Arab relations in Israel, including the economic, educational and social challenges faced by Arab citizens of Israel; and
- the efforts of the Israeli government, private sector, and NGO community to address these challenges and achieve full civic equality for all Israeli citizens.
The GWFIA is a coalition of community organizations, synagogues, philanthropic foundations, and individuals, located in the Greater Washington metropolitan area. The GWFIA welcomes all who support the vision expressed in the Declaration of Establishment of the State of Israel: THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Approximately 21% of Israel's 9 million citizens are Arabs, including Muslims, Christians, Bedouin and Druze. Since 1948, the relationships of these several communities to the Jewish majority have been complex, varied, and constantly changing. However, following the historic demonstrations by Israeli Arabs in October 2000, a commission of inquiry established by the Government of Israel engaged in a rigorous examination of the circumstances of the Israeli Arab community. Acknowledging a history of discrimination, the commission called for a wholesale review of state policies affecting its Arab citizens. The report called the issue "the most sensitive and important domestic issue facing Israel today." [Report of the Or Commission, 2003, par. 24].
In response to growing awareness of the importance of this issue to the future of the State of Israel, leading national organizations of the American Jewish community created the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues. The IATF now includes more than 100 members, including 21 Federations, 40+ private foundations, and national organizations from across the political and religious spectrum of the organized American Jewish community. The IATF mission includes educating the American community about majority/minority relations in Israel and coordinating activities among its members so that they can more effectively carry out their respective activities in North America and in Israel. For more information about the IATF, visit www.IATaskForce.org.
The GWFIA works closely with the national IATF to educate the Greater Washington community about the complex issues of majority and minority relations in Israel—recognizing both Israel's commitment to Jewish and democratic values as well as the challenges faced in the full realization of those aspirations. The GWFIA is not a grant-making entity; rather, it coordinates and assists other community organizations, synagogues, and foundations in their respective educational and philanthropic activities that address issues within the GWFIA mission. We welcome your participation and support.
GWFIA Steering Committee
Rabbi Bill Rudolph, Co-Chair
Dr. Lauren B. Strauss, Co-Chair
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Community of Greater Washington
American Jewish Committee, Washington, DC
Anti-Defamation League, Washington, DC
Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County
Embassy of Israel
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Lois and Richard England Family Foundation
Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation
New Israel Fund
University of Maryland Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies
Washington Hebrew Congregation