Working for equality in Israel



Earlier this month, Yael Kohn-Sharon was visiting the U.S. from Israel in search of funding for Kav Mashve (the equator). Founded in 2007 by Israeli businessman, Dov Lautmann, Kav Mashve was created in response to studies indicating that very few university educated Israeli Arabs were able to find employment suitable to their education and training. Lautmann, whose Lautmann Fund works in part to promote collaboration between and equality among Israeli sub-populations, worked with Dr. Irit Keinan and Israeli Manufacturers & Employers Associations to create the nongovernment organization that is working to reshape Israeli employment opportunities that they believe will be a win-win for both Jewish and Arab Israelis. Kav Mashve’s activity is supported by the Prime Minister’s Office and both Arabs and Jews work for the organization.

“We have to change the mind-set,” says Kohn-Sharon, Kav Mashve’s CEO. “Most employers look for employees who are similar to them. Then they have mutual ground. It’s the easiest way. Why should I make the effort to recruit from a different culture? How would they fit with the team? There is a lack of information. We tell them the advantages of hiring an Arab candidate.”

Kohn-Sharon believes that Israeli Arabs bring creativity to the workforce, someone from a different culture sees things differently. And, she finds, they are very loyal to the company that ultimately hires them. “It is difficult for them, a struggle, so when a company opens the door for them, they will be loyal. I’m talking very generally here.”

She continues, “It breaks down walls of stereotypes when Jews and Arabs can work together.”

Kav Mashve identifies talented students in high school —  those students with the highest grades who are highly motivated. Kav Mashve meets with the students and parents and tracks the students through college.

Others are identified once in university, through a Kav Mashve career course teaching job-search skills including how to write resumes and sit for an interview. The course is offered to third- and fourth-year students studying economics, law, science and business.

This year, the organization began working with recruiting companies, teaching recruiters how best to work with Kav Mashve candidates. “Until this year,” explains Kohn-Sharon, “we did the matching, but we are looking for people in Israel who should be doing the work — not us. We want to make real change in Israel. Others have to take responsibility.”

But their work doesn’t stop when the candidate is hired. Kav Mashve offers workshops for employers on diversity and tools for employees to understand each other. And, while some businesses don’t want to make their hirings an issue by having the workshops, Kohn-Sharon insists the preparation will make the job placement smoother.

To date, Kav Mashve has placed 700 Israeli Arabs in suitable jobs. The group is working with thousands of students and 600 employers.

“Usually it is a success story,” she says. “And usually the companies want to hire more.”

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