The first to speak during this session was Nancy Kaufman, who discussed Israel’s history regarding the rights of women. She opened her talk explaining that although Israel’s pre-state existence created a deep appreciation for gender equality, this did not translate to a state constitution, due to opposition on religion and military grounds. However, in 1992, the Knesset established a constitutional law based on human dignity and equality; this has been interpreted to encompass gender equality. Women continue to face several challenges in Israel, including having difficulty securing divorces and the lack of civil marriages.
Professor Salman Elbedour was the next to speak, and his topic was on Israeli Arabs. He began by illustrating that the Arab population in Israel lives longer than their counterparts in other Middle Eastern countries, and that the literacy rate amongst Bedouin children is significantly higher than it has been in the past. At the same time, there is an economic gap between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews, and it is this poverty that remains one of the major difficulties facing Israeli Arabs today.
Last to speak was Mark Hetfield, who discussed the ongoing refugee crisis in the world in general as well as how it has affected Israel specifically. Hetfield stated that the both the Jewish and international communities need to keep raising the issue of the refugee crisis inside and outside Israel, as this makes a significant difference in dictating policy.