I arrived together with the Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, to assess and experience firsthand, the results of our activities in the Arab-Israeli sector. At first glance, it would appear to be the most unlikely coupling, the Jewish Agency and the Arab population. However, at the end of an exciting day - after visiting Arab and Druze villages, meeting with local leaders from villages and regional councils, seeing hundreds of smiling children who, for the first time, enjoyed a variety of activities, and encountering dozens of Arab citizens who expressed such deep gratitude for all that we did during the war in their shelters and with the camps – we understood that we did the right thing.
There is no need to go into details to describe the socioeconomic gaps in the non-Jewish population in Israel, which includes Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. During the war, these differences stood out more than ever before. The dilapidated bomb shelters and scant services afforded to non-Jewish citizens - who were themselves targets nonetheless of hundreds of rockets and whose members suffered numerous injuries and loss of lives - were very pronounced.
In a cooperative effort with the donors, we decided to act and provide humanitarian aid to this population. We brought air conditioners to the public shelters, we moved thousands of children to the center of the country to participate in the summer camps and finally, we financed vacations for thousands of families in order to recuperate and relax outside of the bomb shelters. We worked to equip community centers, built in Arab villages, which were unused due to a lack of basic supplies. These centers were originally built as safe areas and were employed as such during latest emergency situation. In a short span of time, we stocked them with everything from chairs and tables to computer rooms and audio/visual equipment. During our tour we saw the sparkle in the eyes of hundreds of children who were able to participate, for the first time, in activities conducted in the community centers.
In meetings with the heads of the local councils, we were greeted with endless praise and words of gratitude and moreover, received as friends. Prof. Tamir, the Minister of Education, constantly extolled our contributions in every forum within which we were received. I was especially moved when I received a beautiful recognition from the head of the local council of Sagoor, Mr. Ahmad Dabach, which included an extraordinary dedication praising the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization.
I am pleased and honored that we were able to contribute and make such a significant difference in the lives of this sector of the population. This assistance, we hope, will have an impact on the relationship between the Jews and the minorities in the State of Israel and further, will help to shape the face of democracy and equal rights in this country.
We concluded our day with a huge gathering in Haifa, hosted by the Jewish Agency, within the framework of "returning to the routine" in our cities throughout the north who boast communities of both Jews and Arabs. For an entire week, tens of thousands of children and their families enjoyed fun and relaxing activities in Haifa – clowns, performances and rides complete with cotton candy and popcorn – all free of charge for residents of the north. We are in the process of building a "children's city" this week in Akko which will take on a similar format as the one in Haifa.
As you know, we are currently operating at full speed to provide aid to the north in the aftermath of the war. We will continue to update you on our efforts to revitalize northern Israel's economy and living conditions for all residents. This comprehensive plan includes aiding the small businesses, scholarships and benefits packages designed to encourage students to study in institutions of higher education throughout the north, assisting the families of victims of terror, extending support to lone soldiers and new immigrants in the north and finally, helping to rebuild public buildings damaged or destroyed in the war.