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The Challenge of Diversity in Teacher Education Institutions in Israel: Students' Sense of Relatedness and Perceptions Regarding Being a Minority or Majority

Journal of Diversity in Higher Education
The Challenge of Diversity in Teacher Education
Institutions in Israel: Students’ Sense of Relatedness and
Perceptions Regarding Being a Minority or Majority
Haya Kaplan, Zuhaira Najjar, Esther Kalnisky, and Anat Keinan
Online First Publication, August 31, 2020.
Kaplan, H., Najjar, Z., Kalnisky, E., & Keinan, A. (2020, August 31). The Challenge of Diversity in
Teacher Education Institutions in Israel: Students’ Sense of Relatedness and Perceptions
Regarding Being a Minority or Majority. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Advance online
The Challenge of Diversity in Teacher Education Institutions in Israel:
Students’ Sense of Relatedness and Perceptions Regarding Being a
Minority or Majority
Haya Kaplan
Kaye Academic College of Education
Zuhaira Najjar
The Arab Academic College for Education
Esther Kalnisky
Achva Academic College
Anat Keinan
MOFET Institute, Research, Curriculum and Program
Development in Teacher Education, Tel-Aviv, Israel
In Israel, students from various minority groups study together in teacher education institutions. This
study examines how students from different minority groups perceive the social-cultural relationships
with other groups, whether they feel relatedness, and what characterizes their perceptions regarding being
a minority or majority within and outside the college. The research paradigm is qualitative and the genre
is phenomenological. The participants are 50 students from various minority groups from 7 teacher
education colleges. The results show that most participants report good relationships with students and
lecturers from other ethnic groups, which leads to a deep sense of relatedness in the college. Among
Ethiopian and Arab students, social connections in the college form mostly with students from the same
ethnic group. Among Arab students, the sense of relatedness draws from interactions with friends from
the same culture and from studying in Arabic. Our findings indicate distinct views among Arabs and Jews
regarding being a minority or majority. The Jewish students defined the terms minority and majority
mostly in quantitative terms, while Arab students referred to their social meaning, considering themselves
as an underprivileged minority outside the college but as a majority in the college. In general, the results
show that colleges facilitate caring conditions, detached from the reality outside the college. The findings
have implications on the role of teacher education colleges in promoting equal opportunities and a sense
of relatedness among their students, both within the college and in the general society.
Keywords: diversity, teacher education, sense of relatedness, majority and minority
Cultural diversity of communities and ethnic groups is one of
the challenges facing education in the 21st century (Banks, 2001,
2008; King, Perez, & Shim, 2013). With the shifting demographics
of societies around the world, higher education faces challenges
associated with increased student diversity. Diversity is one of the
most widely discussed topics in higher education policy and re-
search worldwide (e.g., King et al., 2013; Michalski, Cunningham,
& Henry, 2017; Reichert, 2009).
The phenomenon of increased student diversity is also re-
flected in higher education institutions in Israel and specifically
in teacher education colleges. The social fabric in these insti-
tutions mirrors that of the general society in the country (Paul-
Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019). Israeli society is composed of
subgroups distinct from each other in nationality, religion,
language, and culture. Being an immigrant country, Israel’s
population includes various Jewish communities alongside dis-
tinct groups of native Arabs. In the Israeli discourse, various
ethnic groups are defined as minorities, with existing gaps that
separate them from the majority group (Paul-Binyamin & Haj-
Yehia, 2019).
Over the years, the structure of higher education institutions in
Israel has changed. Among other reasons, the changes were in-
stated to address the needs of various populations. Today, teacher
education colleges serve diverse ethnic groups (Central Bureau of
Statistics, 2017). Yet students’ sense of relatedness and their
experiences regarding being a minority do not stand at the center
of policy in these institutions (Paul-Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019).
The issue of diversity among teacher education students in Israel
has not been sufficiently researched. Thus, a need arises to exam-
XHaya Kaplan, Department of Educational Counseling and Center for
Motivation and Self Determination, Kaye Academic College of Education;
Zuhaira Najjar, Department of Teaching Internship and Education, The
Arab Academic College for Education; Esther Kalnisky, Department of
Education, Achva Academic College; Anat Keinan, The Research Author-
ity, MOFET Institute, Research, Curriculum and Program Development in
Teacher Education, Tel-Aviv, Israel.
The study and the article were conducted with the support of the
Research Authority of MOFET Institute, Research, Curriculum and Pro-
gram Development for Teacher Education.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Haya
Kaplan, Department of Educational Counseling and Center for Motivation
and Self Determination, Kaye Academic College of Education, Yeelim 3,
P.O. Box 492, Metar 8502500, Israel. E-mail:
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education
© 2020 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education 2020, Vol. 3, No. 999, 000
ISSN: 1938-8926
ine how students from different minority groups perceive and
experience their social-cultural relationships with other groups in
and outside the college.
Researchers and theoreticians have consistently argued that
higher education should prepare the students for future participa-
tion in a diverse democratic society (King et al., 2013). This
research is a step in this direction. The term diversity may refer to
various aspects, such as students’ profile (ethnicity, religion, so-
cioeconomic background, gender, disabilities, etc.), the profile of
academic and administrative staff (ethnicity, religion, professional
skills), organizational aspects (the institution’s vision, the focus in
research and teaching), organizational structures, curriculum, and
academic programs (Reichert, 2009). Previous research has fo-
cused on the conditions, practices, and intervention programs that
enhance the advantages of intercultural interactions and learning in
culturally mixed groups. See, for example, research on dialogue
groups (White et al., 2019) and diversity courses (Morgan Consoli,
& Marin, 2016). Some studies have focused on organizational
aspects (e.g., Michalski et al., 2017) while others have highlighted
the experiences of students (e.g., King et al., 2013).
This current research looks at the issue of diversity from the
students’ perspectives by examining their experiences and concep-
tions. By diversity, we refer to minority groups of different eth-
nicities that costudy in Israeli colleges of teacher education. We
look at how the students perceive their interactions with other
students and investigate the characteristics of their social relation-
ships, their sense of relatedness within the college, and the aca-
demic and social conditions they have in the college. We also
examine the students’ conceptions and experiences of being a
minority both within and outside the college.
Social Diversity in Israel
Relationships between students of various ethnic groups both
reflect and stem from the larger context of Israeli society (Paul-
Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019). We therefore begin by introducing
its structure. Israeli society is composed of multiple communities,
distinct from one another by their nationality, religion, level of
religious observance, language, and culture. The composition of
the Israeli population, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics
(2019b), is 74.2% Jewish, 21% Arab, and 4.8% other religious or
ethnic groups. The Arab population consists of Muslims, Chris-
tians, and Druze. It includes additional subgroups, such as the
Bedouins—a Muslim population with a unique culture, residing
mostly in southern Israel. Israeli Arabs are native to the country,
belonging to a population that lived in the land before it was
declared a Jewish state in 1948. The majority of Israeli Arabs are
Muslim, and most of them define themselves are religious. Na-
tionally, some define themselves as Palestinians. Of the Jewish
population of Israel, known to be an immigration country, 16.9%
are from Europe and America, 7.9% are from Asia and Africa, and
the rest are Israeli born (called Sabra) but belong to specific ethnic
groups. Additionally, Israel’s Jewish population is divided along
lines of religiousness: 45% identify as secular, 25% as traditional,
16% as orthodox or very orthodox, and 14% as ultraorthodox (each
of these groups contain subgroups that we do not elaborate on
Waves of immigration have characterized Israel since its early
days, causing demographic shifts and creating distinct ethnic and
cultural communities. Thus, the Jewish population comprises mul-
tiple cultures, including Jews from North Africa, the former Soviet
Union, Ethiopia, and various European and other Western coun-
tries. These varied communities have had to handle the difficulties
of integrating into a new society, which in itself is under constant
change. The 1950s saw waves of immigration from Muslim coun-
tries in the Middle East and North Africa, while the 1980s and
1990s brought about immigration of Ethiopian Jews, and the 1990s
included massive waves of newcomers from the former Soviet
Union. Each of these groups is distinct in its cultural characteristics
and integration into the local society (Schafferman, 2008). A
prevalent distinction among Israeli Jews is between Ashkenazi
Jews—those from a European or an American background—and
Mizrahi Jews—immigrants from Muslim countries and their de-
scendants. Within both the Arab and the Jewish sectors, each of the
groups upholds unique values, their way of life ranging from
individualistic-Western to traditional-collectivist.
In the public discourse, as well as in reports and in academic
research, there is evidence of gaps between different ethnic groups
and between central Israel and peripheral regions in various life
aspects: income, health, opportunity for quality education, acces-
sibility to higher education, and more (Central Bureau of Statistics,
2010; Paul-Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019; Swirski, Konor-Attias,
& Lieberman, 2018). The concept periphery has both geographic
and social meanings. Geographic periphery is defined by the
geographic location and distance from central Israel (i.e., from Tel
Aviv). The Israeli periphery is made up of two districts: northern
Israel (e.g., the town of Kiryat Shmona) and southern Israel (e.g.,
the town of Dimona). The term social periphery refers to socio-
economically disadvantaged communities.
The geographic periphery formed when large immigrant popu-
lations were directed toward specially built towns away from Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem in order to create a settlement boundary for
security purposes. Ever since then, the residents of these commu-
nities, known as development towns, have suffered from low
socioeconomic status and a sense of discrimination (Central Bu-
reau of Statistics, 2019a; Swirski et al., 2018). Thus, the geo-
graphic periphery and social one are tightly connected. Some claim
that the periphery is a political construct, reflecting stratification
created by mechanisms of power (Tzfadia & Yacobi, 2011).
The gaps between the various populations are also manifested in
evidence of discrimination and racism toward Arabs, Mizrahi Jews
(i.e., descendants of immigrants from Muslim countries) and Ethi-
opian Jews (e.g., Hermann, Cohen, Omar, Heller, &, Lazar-Shoef,
2017; Palmor, 2016). As an example, a special committee, ap-
pointed by the government in response to protests by the Ethiopian
community in May 2015, examined incidents of racism against
Ethiopians (Palmor, 2016). The incidents listed in the committee’s
report reflected ethnically based and skin color–related manifes-
tations of racism toward Ethiopian Israelis, including discrimina-
tion in education and employment, denials of school applications,
and rejection by orthodox institutions. Among other groups, such
as Mizrahi Israelis, the sense of discrimination draws from the
apparent social gaps that continue to exist even within the Israeli-
born generation. The concept ethnic divide, prevalent in the Israeli
discourse, denotes the gaps that persists between Mizrahi Israelis
and Ashkenazi ones (those from European and American origin) in
education, employment, economics, and politics (Blander, 2018).
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The social diversity and its consequent tensions make Israeli
society a divided one. The main fractures are the following: the
national divide (between Arabs and Jews), the religious divide
(between secular and orthodox Jews), the ethnic divide (between
Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Israelis), and the ideological-political di-
vide. In recent years, as economic inequality has expanded, a new
divide has formed between the rich and the poor (Blander, 2018;
Swirski et al., 2018) and between geographic periphery and Isra-
el’s center (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2019a).
The complexity of identities within Israel was famously ad-
dressed by president of Israel Reuven Rivlin in his “tribes” speech
(Rivlin, 2015), according to which Israeli society is divided be-
tween four tribes who share the same space: the majority group of
secular Jews and the minority groups of religious Jews, ultraortho-
dox Jews, and Arabs. These “tribes” uphold different values and
distinct discourses, their interactions being hostile and competi-
tive. Rivlin’s address called for a new Israeli order based on
partnership rather than on a hierarchy of majority versus minority.
Israel’s Teacher Education Institutions
Israel’s unique situation wherein there is an Arab native minor-
ity, on the one hand, and recurrent immigration waves of diverse
ethnic groups, on the other, poses a huge educational challenge for
teacher education. The higher education system in the country has
transformed over the years, as it has in other parts of the world
(Soen & Davidovitch, 2004). The Council of Higher Education is
in charge of policymaking and supervision of the system, including
foundation of new academic institutions, development of research
and instruction, and making the academic world accessible to
wider populations. Prior to the 1990s, teacher education training
was done at nonacademic institutions called teachers’ seminars.
Starting in the 1990s, the number of higher education institutions
in Israel—including teacher education institutions—increased dra-
matically. The teachers’ seminars gradually transformed into aca-
demic institutions where academic degrees can be obtained—BEd
and today also MEd—and are now being termed academic col-
leges. This change stemmed from a 1995 parliamentary legislation,
which allowed colleges to grant academic degrees (Israel Knesset,
1995). This policy shift responded to the massive waves of immi-
gration of the 1990s and young immigrants’ need to continue their
course of study. It also addressed the need of high school graduates
who did not meet the criteria for university applications, especially
in the geographic and social periphery, to acquire academic edu-
cation as a means of improving their social and vocational status
(Ayalon, 2008; Swirski & Swirski, 1997). This development im-
pacted the entire higher education system in the country and
resulted in the “massification of higher education,” similar to
occurrences in the rest of the world (Soen & Davidovitch, 2004).
The process resulted in a larger number and more diversity of
academic institutions. Today, they range from universities, which
focus on research and PhD studies, to academic colleges—includ-
ing teachers’ colleges, regional public colleges, and private col-
leges. The gates of higher education are now open to students of
diverse backgrounds (Ayalon, 2008; Yogev, 2008).
As a result of both the composition of Israeli population and the
structural changes in higher education, today teacher education
colleges include a variety of populations from diverse ethnic
groups (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2017; Lidor, Feigin, Fresko,
Talmor, & Kupermintz, 2015), some of which meet for the first
time in the college. Many colleges of education have been opened
in peripheral areas, providing easier access to higher education to
local residents (Schayek, 2005). Yet the sense of relatedness of the
various groups does not stand at the center of policy and activity
in those institutions (Paul-Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019).
The literature has extensive research on minority groups, from
theoretical aspects linking power with the symbolic resources of
groups in society (Bourdieu, 1991; Foucault, 1984), through as-
pects of the social and cultural identity and self-determination of
groups (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), to a more pragmatic focus on the
characteristics of specific minority groups. In Israel, the issue of
belonging to minority groups has not been sufficiently researched
among teacher education students. Research that examines the
experiences and perceptions of students from diverse minority
groups in teacher education institutions is scant.
Some studies have examined the social and academic integra-
tion of young people from various minority groups (e.g., Feniger,
Ayalon, & McDossi, 2013). For example, Feniger et al. (2013)
studied gaps in accessibility to higher education between young
people from social groups that have historically enjoyed access to
higher education (Israeli-born Ashkenazi Jews, children of edu-
cated parents) and young people from the social periphery (Miz-
rahi Jews, Arabs, immigrants, children of uneducated parents).
Their findings indicate that despite the structural changes in higher
education in Israel (discussed above), communities from the social
periphery are still disadvantaged in that respect. Descendants of
immigrants from Europe and America are still admitted to higher
education institutions in larger numbers than people from all other
ethnoreligious groups in Israel.
In light of the social inequalities in Israeli society and the sense
of deprivation of different minorities, we ask the following ques-
tions: Do these feelings of discrimination infiltrate teacher educa-
tion colleges? How do students of various groups experience their
positioning as minority groups in the college and outside it, and to
what level do they feel a sense of relatedness to the college? This
study aimed to examine the authentic experiences of socially
peripheral students who will be the educators of the future gener-
ation. The premise is that their current academic experiences will
shape their views, which will then be transferred to their students,
potentially impacting cultural encounters of various groups in
Israeli society. The study may shed light on the role of education
colleges in the socialization of socially peripheral students and in
shaping their social, cultural, and civic identities; it may also
highlight the way these colleges stand up to the challenge of social
We shall now present the concepts of majority and minority in
the Israeli context. Then we will introduce some basic information
about the minority groups participating in the study. Finally, we
shall address the role of relationships and a sense of relatedness as
personal resources among minority groups.
Majority and Minority in Israel
Coexistence of majority and minority groups is a significant
issue in the public debate in Israel due to the multiple minority
groups comprising its population. A minority is defined as a group
of people within the majority population that differs from it in
national, ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, and other character-
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istics (Barak, 2006). A distinction is often drawn between a nu-
merical (or demographic) minority, which refers to a group that is
factually smaller in number than the majority group and a socio-
logical minority. A sociological minority is a group of people
whose physical or cultural characteristics distinguish them from
others in the society in which they live. They often view them-
selves as the object of group discrimination and inequality (Barak,
2006). Minority groups of this kind were created in Israel in the
wake of the mass immigration of Jews from different parts of the
world between 1948 and 1995 (Lewin-Epstein & Semyonov,
2000), as detailed above.
In contrast to minority groups that resulted from immigration, a
native minority is a group native to the country. It views itself as
a nation or a discrete national group and, due to political and social
changes, has unwillingly become a minority in its homeland. The
Arab minority in Israel is a national minority that is native to Israel
and differs from the Jewish population in its national characteris-
tics (Jubran, 1995; Paul-Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019).
In the Israeli discourse, the concept majority usually refers to the
general Jewish population, which is significantly larger than the
Arab population. Yet, as we have seen, the Jewish majority itself
contains minority groups, whose members feel deprived in relation
to the general Israeli society and suffer from inequality in alloca-
tion of resources in health, education, political representation, and
more. While the terms majority and minority might resonate neg-
atively, as they potentially denote exclusion or dehumanization of
certain populations, we made a choice to use them because they
reflect the composition of Israeli society and prevail in both the
Israeli discourse and the theoretic literature. A testimony to the
central place of these terms in the local discourse may be found in
President Rivlin’s speech (Rivlin, 2015), which expressed the
tensions between majority and minority with the metaphor of
According to Schafferman (2007), gaps between communities
and groups in Israel are the direct outcome of a stratified social
structure, with Ashkenazi Jews still at the social top, Mizrahi Jews
in the middle, and Arabs at the least advantageous position. Con-
sequently, members of the different groups have a different start-
ing point, which, to a certain extent, replicates economic, social,
ethnic, and national inequality. Numerous books and articles have
been written on each of the minority groups mentioned above; here
we shall present a few main points for the purpose of character-
izing each of them. The points chosen are those that explain why
each of these groups can be defined as a minority in Israeli society.
Israeli Arabs are a native minority within the Jewish majority in
Israel (Paul-Binyamin & Haj-Yehia, 2019). Israeli Arabs consti-
tute 20% of the total population and are divided into three sub-
groups: 82% Muslim, 10% Christian, and 8% Druze. The identity
of Israeli Arabs is influenced by different and at times contradic-
tory sources: first, by their original tradition, language, religion,
nationality, culture, ideals, and concepts; second, by the neighbor-
ing Arab states; and third, by urbanization, modernization, and the
Israeli lifestyle, which is influenced by the Western world and its
characteristics (Najjar, 2003).
The Bedouins are a small group within Israeli Arabs. They
originated from a nomadic society that roamed the Arabian deserts
and are traditionally divided into tribes (Teschner, Garb, & Tal,
2010). The Bedouins are Muslim, live in extended families, and in
the main lead a traditional-collectivist way of life. They hold the
lowest socioeconomic status in Israel (Abu-Bader & Gottlieb,
In the first years following the establishment of the State of
Israel, the level of education within the Israeli Arab community,
especially among the Bedouins, was significantly lower than that
of Jewish education. Over time, education was perceived as more
important within the Arab population, and the number of schools
increased. The number of Arab students in academic institutions
also increased, from 8.3% of the student population in 2000 to
15.2% in 2017. The rate of Arab education students rose from 17%
in 2000% to 24% in 2017 (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2017).
Jews of Mizrahi origin constitute another minority group in
Israel. In this article, the term Mizrahi refers to Jews of North
African or Middle Eastern origin who live in peripheral localities
in Israel. It is the oldest immigrant group examined in the present
study. Most Mizrahi immigrants came to Israel in the first waves
of immigration between 1948 and 1951 and some up to 1963. Due
to Israel’s population dispersion policy, the newcomers were pri-
marily settled in the country’s geographic periphery, in small
towns established throughout the country (Lewin-Epstein & Se-
myonov, 2000). As a group, the first generation of Mizrahi immi-
grants did not integrate successfully and stayed behind the rest of
society in their socioeconomic conditions. Over the years, the
economic and social inequality between Israel’s center and its
peripheral areas has persisted.
Of Mizrahi Jews who acquire higher education, 19% study in
universities and 29% in education colleges. It seems that the gaps
in education still exist. The numbers show that among Jews ages
25– 44 with higher education, only 29% are Israeli born with two
immigrant parents from Muslim countries, while 49% are Israeli
born with two Ashkenazi parents. These gaps have various expla-
nations, such as differences in financial resources and accessibility
to higher education, as well as different views among the young-
sters and their parents regarding the importance of higher educa-
tion (Dovrin, 2015).
According to Ayalon (2008), residents in Israel’s geographic
periphery prefer regional colleges and teacher education colleges
to universities to a greater extent than do residents of central Israel.
Mizrahi Jews tend to prefer teacher education colleges because
they have a practical orientation and provide an opportunity to
acquire a prestigious and financially rewarding profession without
setting strict admission requirements like universities.
Jews of Ethiopian origin are less than 2% of the Jewish popu-
lation in Israel (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2016). The majority
of Jewish Ethiopian immigrants arrived in Israel in two main
immigration waves, in 1984 and 1991. Most of them are at the
bottom of the ladder in terms of economic status, education, and
social aspects and suffer from high rates of unemployment (Schlei-
cher, 2006). This group is the most discrete of all the immigrant
communities in Israel, primarily due to their dark skin, which plays
a big part in society’s attitude toward them and in their own
self-perception (Kalnisky, Millet, & Cohen, 2015). The Ethiopian
immigrant community is undergoing drastic intercultural transi-
tion, especially in terms of the role and structure of the family,
which has led to a number of dramatic and violent events.
Despite the fact that the years 2000 –2016 have seen significant
growth in the number of Ethiopian Israelis in higher education,
their rate in the academy is still lower than their numbers in the
general population. In the academic year of 2015–2016, for exam-
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ple, Ethiopian Israelis were only 1.2% of the students, whereas
their rate among the population of Jews aged 20 –29 was 3.3%. In
the same year, 13% of Ethiopian Israeli BA students were enrolled
in education colleges (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2016).
Social Relationships and a Sense of Relatedness as
Personal Resources in Minority Groups
Several resources can serve individuals in their developmental
processes. A central resource is the individual’s social environ-
ment. Besides family, which provides the overall context for
optimal development (Bridges, Flores, Tschann, & Operario,
2006), other figures, such as friends, teachers, or university lec-
turers, play an important role in the individual’s development and
optimal functioning. Social resources are described as close, sta-
ble, developing, and safe interpersonal relationships (Blatt &
Blass, 1996).
In an environment where individuals experience support from
meaningful figures and have satisfying relationships based on
trust, they develop a sense of relatedness—to family, friends,
ingroup, or organization (Weinstein, 2014). A sense of relatedness
refers to an individual’s psychological sense of connection to his
or her community (Museus, Yi, & Saelua, 2018). According to
self-determination theory, the need for relatedness is one of three
basic psychological needs (the others are the needs for competence
and for autonomy), referring to the individual’s aspiration to
maintain close, safe, and satisfying relationships with others in the
community in which he or she lives (Deci & Ryan, 2000). A sense
of relatedness means “feeling close and connected to others in
one’s social sphere, and . . . [of] caring for and being cared for by
others” (Weinstein, 2014, p. 8).
Numerous studies indicate that experiences of need support and
need satisfaction enhance autonomous motivation, quality engage-
ment, well-being and social adjustment (see Ryan & Deci, 2017)
and strengthen inner resources, thus contributing to resilience
(Vansteenkiste & Ryan, 2013). Furrer, Skinner, and Pitzer (2014)
maintain that positive relationships between students and teachers,
as well as between students and their peers, are essential for
creating academic commitment and advancing academic achieve-
ments. Furthermore, satisfying social interactions create a sense of
relatedness to the learning environment.
With regard to students in higher education and specifically to
students belonging to minority groups, previous studies have sup-
ported the notion that students’ sense of relatedness (the studies to
be described use the term sense of belonging) is influenced by the
nature of the students’ relationships with others in the academic
institution and that a sense of relatedness leads to positive out-
comes. In an early study, Hurtado and Carter (1997) examined the
link between campus climate and a sense of belonging among
Latino college students. They found that students’ positive expe-
riences were strongly associated with their sense of belonging,
while a hostile racial climate had a negative effect on students’
sense of belonging. Other studies have shown that a positive
campus environment, specifically a culturally engaging environ-
ment, is associated with a greater sense of belonging among
students from different cultural groups (Museus, Yi, & Saelua,
2017; Museus et al., 2018; Nunez, 2009). For example, Museus et
al. (2018) examined the link between a culturally engaging campus
environment and a sense of belonging among White students and
students of color. The results show that a culturally engaging
campus environment accounts for a significant portion of the
variance in the belonging outcomes for both groups. Other studies
examined environmental characteristics that support minority stu-
dents’ sense of belonging (e.g., Maestas, Vaquera, & Zehr, 2007).
The Present Study
The research paradigm of our study is qualitative and the genre
is phenomenological. We focus on a specific phenomenon—the
social-cultural experience of students from different minority
groups within the unique context of an education college. The
study examines how students of these communities experience
their relationships in the college and what meaning they give to
them, within the wider context of the structure of Israeli society.
Following the tradition of phenomenological research, our study is
not anchored in external theory but rather is essentially inductive
(Creswell & Poth, 2018; Shkedi, 2011).
The study focuses on the experiences and conceptions of edu-
cation students from several ethnic communities considered mi-
nority groups in Israel. The literature review reveals that the sense
of relatedness among minority students has not been addressed in
previous research. Moreover, most relevant studies are quantitative
and have examined students in general colleges and universities
and not in education colleges, where future teachers are trained.
In light of the apparent gaps in Israel today between the general
population and minority groups, and in light of those minorities’
sense of deprivation, examining their experiences and conceptions
about being a minority, both in the college and in society at large,
may teach us about a possible affinity between the general society
and education colleges. Inspired by Bourdieu (1991), who looked
at power relationships, we investigate whether the existing social
order is reflected in the sphere of higher education, particularly in
education colleges, and to what extent the experience of inequality
is present among minority students both with regards to their
conceptualization of the terms minority and majority and with
regards to their sense of relatedness within the college.
Research Questions
1. How do education students from different minority
groups perceive the social-cultural relationships and their
sense of relatedness in the college?
2. What characterizes the perceptions and experiences of
students from different minority groups regarding issues
of minority and majority in and outside the college?
Fifty students are from seven teacher education colleges. Five of
the colleges are attended by both Jewish and Arab students, while
two are Arab institutions attended only by Arab students. Of the
participants, 12 are students of Ethiopian origin, 12 are of Mizrahi
origin from development towns and localities in Israel’s geo-
graphic periphery, 13 are Bedouin Arabs from southern Israel, and
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13 are Arab students attending Arab colleges in northern Israel. All
the Jewish and Bedouin students attend mixed education colleges.
Forty-six participants are female and four are male (all male
participants are Arabs from colleges in northern Israel). Fourteen
participants are under 21 (most of them Arabs from northern Israel
and Bedouin Arabs from southern Israel), whereas 23 participants
are 22–25 years old (mostly Jewish) and 13 are older than 26
(mostly Jewish). All of the participants are undergraduate students
from various domains of studying in the teacher education insti-
tution. In order to best represent the studied population, we used
judgmental sampling—a nonarbitrary sampling that leaves the
selection of the final sampling unit to be used in the study to the
researcher’s judgment (Miller & Salkind, 2002). The goal was to
include various ethnic groups, as well as colleges from both the
Jewish and Arab sectors.
Research Tools
Semistructured interviews were conducted (Shkedi, 2003),
which were based on a previous study (Kalnisky et al., 2015). The
interview began with an open question: “Tell your story as a
student in the college; describe your experience of studying in the
college. You can begin with any subject you choose (academic,
social).” The participants were then asked specific questions as-
sociated with the study’s topics of inquiry: perception of their
relationships with different groups and figures at the college, a
sense of relatedness in and outside the college, and cultural en-
counters and their characteristics. The study also examined the
participants’ perceptions concerning majority and minority issues,
such as definition of the concepts, self-perception as a majority or
minority in the context of the college and Israel, feelings of
discrimination or racism in the college, and experiences of being a
majority or minority in and outside the college.
The students received a request to participate in the study, in
some cases during classes in the college and in others on the basis
of the researchers’ personal acquaintance. All the participants gave
their informed consent to participate in the study. The interview
with each student lasted approximately 90 min.
Four female researchers who work in four education colleges
conducted the research. Three of them are Jewish and one is Arab
and a native Arabic speaker, who identifies herself with the Arab
minority. She conducted the interviews with Arabs from northern
Israel in Arabic, whereas the other interviews were conducted in
Hebrew. This includes those with Bedouin Arabs from Israel’s
south, who study in an integrated college and have good command
of Hebrew. All interviewees were cooperative, and we did not
detect any communication difficulty due to the researchers’ posi-
tionality. Yet, in order to avoid bias based on ethnicity or hierarchy
between researchers and participants, the issue was discussed by
the research team and taken into account during the interviews and
data analysis.
Data Analysis
The analytical procedures reflected the phenomenology genre.
We employed a thematic analysis that comprised a number of
stages: a holistic reading of each interview, a horizontal analysis to
draw central themes, and a vertical analysis to find connections
and create the final series of themes (Shkedi, 2003). This analysis
was conducted for each cultural group separately, and then our
research team discussed repeated themes. While identifying the
themes, we discussed the issues that each theme brought up and its
characteristic quotations. Disagreements were further discussed
until a consensus was reached. Then the research team considered
the findings for each cultural group, looking for similarities and
differences and addressing the research questions.
The study has brought up a number of themes. The first theme
is students’ experiences of satisfying social relationships and their
sense of relatedness within the college. A subtheme presents the
other side of the story: A small portion of the Arab students in the
mixed colleges and the Ethiopian students form most of their
connections with students of their own ethnic group and express a
feeling of discrimination. The second theme is encounters with
different cultures as a result of attending the college, which is seen
in a positive light. The third theme is students’ perceptions regard-
ing majority and minority in and outside the college. We will now
review each of these themes.
Social relationships and a sense of relatedness in the college.
The atmosphere in the colleges is generally reported to be positive.
The participants use expressions such as “warm home,” “green-
house,” and “my neighborhood.” A Mizrahi Jewish student from
the geographic periphery says, “It feels like a second home.
Whether it’s my friends or the time I spend here, which is more
than I spend at home.” Arab students attending an Arab college
say, “I feel happy in the college”; “Studying here is very pleasant”;
“A social atmosphere that induces calm and acceptance.”
Most of the participants describe good social relationships with
other students, based on respect and mutual support that enhance
their sense of relatedness. Thus, for example, an Arab student from
an Arab college says, “The most beautiful thing at the college is
the friendships, even though there are different ethnic communi-
ties, it’s so comfortable with the students and with the lecturers as
well.” Some students specifically note that the source for support
and help during their studies is their friends. A Mizrahi student
states explicitly that if not for her friends, she would have dropped
out: “I feel I belong, socially I feel my friends support me. There
were a few times I wanted to drop out because of the pressure, and
thanks to my friends, I stayed.”
The emerging picture is that there are two types of friendship at
the colleges. One is of close friends, those with whom the partic-
ipants study in a particular academic program. The second is of
other acquaintances, with whom the participants study several
weekly hours in one or two courses. Most of the participants note
that relationships with their fellow students in their academic
program are closer than those with students they meet less fre-
quently. Thus, for example, a Mizrahi student describes, “In this
program there is a very friendly connection, we all support one
another, and lift each other up. We’re all in the same boat.”
For some participants, the sense of relatedness also stems from
participating in various social activities in the college, such as the
student council. Thus, a Mizrahi Jewish student from the geo-
graphic periphery states, “I’m very involved at the college. I
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participate in ceremonies, in the student council. I like being
involved. When something needs to be organized I always take the
reins.” However, some Bedouin students and students of Ethiopian
origin do not participate in the social activities. A Bedouin student
says, “Usually, if I’ve got time I go, but I don’t have much.”
A sense of relatedness is also associated with the lecturers’
support. The students are satisfied with the lecturers’ attitude
toward them. For example, a Mizrahi Jewish student states that the
lecturers “are very empathic, very understanding, there’s some-
thing caring.”
Similar responses were provided when the participants were
asked who they turn to when they experience difficulty: Most of
them report that their friends are their main source for both
emotional and academic assistance in the college. Others state
that they turn to their lecturers for assistance, but this is most
often done when their difficulty is academic. In a few cases, the
participants report turning to a particular office holder who
helps them to solve problems. Thus, a Bedouin student from a
general college states, “When I experience difficulty I turn to
friends or a lecturer.”
An important issue that emerged among Arab and Bedouin Arab
students was their sense of belonging to their cultural group. The
fact that most of their classes are conducted in their Arabic mother
tongue and with people who are culturally close to them helps
them to feel a sense of relatedness. An Arab student from an Arab
college says, “I feel good and content because the college is Arab,
I don’t have feelings of alienation because it’s my environment,
climate and culture.”
The other side of the story: Social connections mostly limited
to the ethnic ingroup and feelings of discrimination. A small
number of Arab students in the mixed colleges and some of the
students of Ethiopian descent report that their strongest social
connections are with students from their ethnic ingroup. Arab
students connect socially almost exclusively with other Arab stu-
dents, maintaining connections with Jewish students mostly
around academic issues. A Bedouin student says, “We the Arabs
study separately. It’s only in the joint course that I meet Jewish
students, but when the course is over, it all ends.” A similar feeling
is echoed by an Ethiopian student: “I have two Ethiopian friends
and my mentor. I don’t have non-Ethiopian friends because they
don’t understand us.”
In addition, a small number of Arab students in the mixed
colleges report discriminatory attitudes by lecturers and adminis-
trators, which weaken their sense of relatedness. For example, a
Bedouin student says, “They treat Arabs differently from Jews.
There’s a lot of racism towards Arabs.”
Several students report incidents that made them feel discrimi-
nated against. One example is when a mixed college prevented an
Arab organization from entering the campus to do activities with
Arab students. This caused resentment among the Arab students.
Several Ethiopian students report experiencing prejudice due to
their skin color. In one case, for example, a rumor spread around
the college that an Ethiopian student had tuberculosis. That student
felt that this was related to her ethnicity.
In general, most students report positive social and academic
connections with friends and lecturers, which lead to a sense of
relatedness. In some cases (among Ethiopian students and Arabs in
mixed colleges), social connections are mostly limited to the ethnic
ingroup. The sense of relatedness to the college draws mostly from
different sources in each group. Among Jewish students, the sense
of relatedness is related mostly to social connections, involvement
in campus activities, and relationships with college faculty.
Among Arab students, both in mixed and in exclusively Arab
colleges, the sense of relatedness also draws from the interactions
with friends of the same culture, from studying in the mother
tongue and from social and academic support from friends and
faculty. These students develop few connections with students of
other groups. A small number of Arab students in mixed colleges
report negative attitudes by lecturers and administrators, and a
small number of Ethiopian students report experiences of discrim-
Encounters with different cultures as a result of attending
the college. The interviews brought up the fact that students in
the college encounter people and groups that they have not met
before. These encounters enable them to learn about the
“other,” enhance their awareness regarding the living condi-
tions of different groups, and arouse curiosity and a desire to
gain closer familiarity with people from other groups. In some
cases, the students describe a random encounter resulting from
studying together that changed their worldview concerning the
“others.” Thus, for example, an Arab student from an Arab
college says, “I’m a very selective person and there are a lot of
rural students I rejected. I’m a city dweller and I always felt
superior to rural people. Today I see things differently.” A
Mizrahi Jewish student from the geographic periphery relates
how she learned about the Bedouins from her fellow students:
“but when you see the human aspect, you suddenly develop
sensitivity, take a stand.”
Some of the colleges hold multicultural courses whose aim is
to intentionally bring together students from different groups,
thus enabling encounters with different cultures. All the inter-
viewees who mentioned these encounters express a very posi-
tive attitude toward the “other” and a desire to have more
interactions of this kind. A Bedouin student from a mixed
college describes the course: “The multicultural course was
good, and it gave us an opportunity to build a connection with
students from a different culture, where there has always been
a barrier.”
A Jewish student says that the course has enabled her to meet
Arab students. She understood that they all have shared goals and
professional aspirations.
At first I objected, but the course has shown me that things are not
black or white. It made me get to know other people . . . before that
I was not willing to interact with Arabs . . . in the college I understood
that we are all students and we all want to get ahead and we can put
aside all the other business. I connected with people, and we still meet
and talk.
The descriptions of interactions between diverse groups some-
times brought up a desire to continue such interactions and inten-
sify the relationships. Students also wanted to explain to people of
the other group who they are and what they are like so that the
other “side” will understand and know them better. A Bedouin
student in a general college says, “Yesterday in class, a few
students asked me about the Bedouins and the Arabs. I provided
answers, because I love communicating with Jews. I don’t know
why, maybe because we all live in one country. Also, you know,
we are actually cousins.” A Mizrahi Jewish student says, “I find it
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interesting and I want to experience things with the other sector. I
love being together in the same place, not being apart in separate
Perceptions of majority and minority in and outside the
college. Differences were found between Jewish and Arab stu-
dents in their definitions of the concepts majority and minority.
Most of the Jewish students provided a quantitative definition
relating to the number of people of a particular origin. A student of
Mizrahi origin defined it thus: “Number of people. There are more
in the majority than in the minority, just the number of people.” A
student of Ethiopian origin said, “It doesn’t matter which groups,
more than 50% is the majority.”
After giving it more thought, some Jewish students added com-
ponents to their quantitative definition, such as rights and discrim-
ination, similar to some of the definitions provided by Arab stu-
dents attending Arab colleges. In all these cases, Jewish students
attending mixed colleges defined minority as a group to which it is
preferable not to belong. In some cases, they noted the power
relations between majority and minority. A student of Mizrahi
origin said, “Minority is a group that’s socially disadvantaged.” A
student of Ethiopian origin stated, “The majority has power and the
minority less so. The minority has to fight for their rights, fight to
get there.”
The definitions provided by Arab students were very different,
however. They all noted that in quantitative terms, the Arabs in
Israel are a minority, and the Jews are a majority. A Bedouin
student from a mixed college explains, “In the State of Israel the
Jews are the majority because there are many more of them than
Arabs.” However, beyond the quantitative definitions, these stu-
dents provided more substantive criteria for defining majority and
minority, as follows:
1. Majority and minority are measured in accordance with
the group’s influence on the country’s agenda and in
accordance with the cultural, social, political, and eco-
nomic mobility of the group. An Arab student attending
an Arab college states, “In my view, majority and mi-
nority are measured in accordance with the group’s in-
fluence on the country, not by the number of members in
the group. As we all know, we as Arabs don’t have much
influence in the country.”
2. Majority and minority were defined in accordance with
the degree of control one group has over another and in
accordance with the scope of rights the state grants the
group. Arab students state that the majority can cause
harm to the minority in numerous ways simply because
it is a majority with rights. A student from an Arab
college states, “The minority is constantly controlled
and it doesn’t get its full rights. The minority suffers
throughout its life from absence of rights and absence
of opportunities in all aspects of life.” This statement
reveals a sense of discrimination and a perceived neg-
ative image of the minority in the eyes of the majority.
A Bedouin student from a mixed college says, “Arabs
are treated differently from Jews; a lot of racism is
directed toward Arabs. Arabs have fewer budgets and
far fewer places of work.”
3. The Arab students’ definitions of majority and minor-
ity reveal their dilemmas about their national-cultural
identity and an insecurity concerning their future:
The Jews are the majority and it’s their country. I’m not Palestinian
and I’m not Israeli. I was born here and I do not belong here nor there.
I refuse to define myself as Palestinian or Israeli. I do not belong to
Palestine, I do not have memories there and I do not have friends
there. Nazareth (a big Arabic city in the north of Israel) is my country
and my security.
Beyond the quantitative definition of majority and minority,
echoed in all interviews, Jews and Arabs alike feel that these
concepts possess different connotations. It was clear to all the
students that minority has a negative connotation, whereas major-
ity has a positive connotation, even when the definition is only
quantitative. Jewish students address the question objectively, that
is, they provide an answer to what a minority is and what a
majority is without linking it to themselves. In contrast, Arab
students address the question personally. They explain the con-
cepts of majority and minority with reference to their subjective
life reality. The Arab students’ descriptions revealed their feelings
that the Arab minority in Israel has fundamental problems. They
associate these problems with a lack of influence and involvement
in decision making, control and discrimination, the negative image
of the minority in the eyes of the majority, insecurity, and diffi-
culties in defining the identity of the Arab minority.
After defining majority and minority, the students were asked
which group they belonged to. The students were quick to asso-
ciate themselves with at least one majority group. Most of the
students from the Arab colleges stated that they belonged to the
Arab nation and that the Arabs in Israel are a minority, but in the
college and in their town or village, they feel like a majority. A
student from an Arab college says, “I belong to the Arabs and I’m
proud of myself. The Arabs in Israel are a minority, but in the
college I feel a majority.”
A similar tendency emerged among Jewish students. They, too,
associated themselves with at least one majority group both in and
outside the college. On the micro level, they associated themselves
with their group of origin, for example, Ethiopian or Mizrahi
ethnic groups, while others associated themselves with religion,
for example, orthodox and traditional, or the type of locality they
live in. Some defined themselves as “Israelis” who do not belong
to any group. The vast majority indicated belonging to more than
one group. They all associated themselves with at least one group
that they view as a majority group or a strong sector in Israeli
The issue of majority and minority has strong connotations for
the students. Within the positive atmosphere of the college, one
can ignore the issue and its implications, but outside the college, it
becomes very significant. So the students try to ignore it or
associate themselves with at least one majority group, which has a
positive connotation, so as not to belong only to a minority.
The gap between the situation in the college and that outside the
college is described by an Arab student from an Arab college:
I belong to the Arabs, not the religion. In the college and in the
northern region and Nazareth I feel a majority, I feel secure and
confident. In public places I feel a minority, I feel like it’s not mine.
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The further away I get from the city where I was born and where I
live, the more tired I get.
In modern society, higher education is conceived as a critical
resource for social, economic, and political mobility (Arar, 2015).
The rise in the number of higher education institutions in Israel
was expected to advance equality among Israeli citizens (Cohen &
Lion, 2018). It has brought new, larger populations into higher
education—among them disadvantaged groups such as Arabs,
Ethiopians, Mizrahi Jews, and residents of Israel’s periphery—
whose members strive to improve their social-economic status.
Our study focused on the diversity of students both within mixed
colleges, where Jews and Arabs study together, and within Arab
education colleges, which are also diverse in their population. We
focused on examining the way culturally diverse and socially
peripheral students view their social-cultural experiences, their
sense of relatedness, and their positioning as a minority in these
Most of the participants express a deep sense of relatedness in
the college and describe it as a second home. Social connections
with friends as well as good relationships with college faculty were
mentioned as reasons for this feeling. One of the topics the
students referred to was the encounter with students from a dif-
ferent culture, with which they are satisfied. Only a few cases of
discrimination or negative attitude from people in the college, as
perceived by the students, were mentioned.
These findings echo the literature on diversity in higher educa-
tion institutions. The present study points to a sense of relatedness
that goes hand in hand with an environment that allows culturally
diverse groups to study together in a supportive and satisfying
climate. A study by King et al. (2013) found that feeling safe was
a critical factor in students’ willingness to get involved in inter-
cultural learning. The quantitative study by Museus et al. (2018)
found that culturally engaging environments promote a sense of
relatedness among students of diverse groups. Characteristics of
such environments were brought up by students in the current
research, such as “cultural familiarity” (students reported oppor-
tunities for interactions leading to better acquaintance with stu-
dents of diverse backgrounds) and “humanized educational envi-
ronments” (most students reported meaningful relationships with
friends and lecturers).
This current study confirms the finding from King et al. (2013),
namely, that costudying of students of diverse ethnic groups in the
same institution brings about positive exposure to other cultures.
According to Allport’s intercultural contact theory (Allport, 1954),
direct contact between groups may reduce prejudice and alleviate
the sense of discrimination. According to this theory, several
conditions promote positive interactions between members of dif-
ferent cultural groups. We can infer from the interviews in the
current research that such conditions exist in the colleges investi-
gated. The participants in the study are all of equal status; they are
all students of education with identical goals. The college provided
opportunities for collaboration and enhanced familiarity, whether
it is direct (as claimed by Allport), as in courses on multicultur-
alism, or in occasional encounters, which research has found
effective in reducing prejudice (e.g., Pettigrew, Tropp, Wangner,
& Christ, 2011). Similar findings were reported by King et al.
The friendships formed by the students, which constitute a
significant social resource for them, reflect theories in social
psychology that explain group behavior in terms of interaction
between members of small groups (Baron & Byrne, 2003). Mem-
bers of a particular group always tend to define themselves as a
“group”; they develop a social structure and positive emotional
connections, thus becoming a group, and belonging to it becomes
an emotional foundation that is sustained by the social cohesion
model (Tajfel & Turner, 2004). The relationships between mem-
bers of a membership group are highly meaningful for the indi-
vidual since they influence the individual’s personal identity and
determine his or her thinking and modes of action in various
When asked to provide definitions of majority and minority,
Jewish students struggled and mostly addressed the issue numer-
ically. Arab students defined majority and minority with reference
to the social meaning of these concepts and also referred to their
feelings as a minority. In both groups, Jews and Arabs, the per-
ception of majority and minority was connotative, and they all
made a point of associating themselves with at least one majority
group. Jewish students do not consider themselves a minority and
are somewhat resistant to engaging with the issue, whereas Arab
students view themselves as an underprivileged minority in Israel.
Various theories can aid us in understanding the differences in
the students’ definitions in terms of belonging to majority and
minority groups. Foucault (1981) engaged with the issue of the
hegemonic discourse and how it creates and shapes systems that
gain the status of “truth” (in the present case, the desire to belong
to the majority) and thus governs the definitions of the social world
and the attitude toward marginal groups (reluctance to belong to a
minority). According to Foucault, the individual’s identity is not
separate from their social identity, and he always reacts in a
social-historical context, just as the students in the present study,
Jews and Arabs alike, responded to the issue of belonging to a
majority and minority with reference to their life reality. Tajfel
(1982) refers to social identity as the individual’s recognition that
he belongs to certain social groups and that this membership is a
central component of the self and can provide numerous positive
elements, such as a sense of belonging to a group, self-worth, and
a sense of belonging to something bigger than the individual self.
The sense of relatedness that ties the individual to others is the
basis for partnerships in a social life.
Whereas outside the college, the students’ dominant identity is
that of a minority group in Israel, in the college, they create for
themselves an additional identity of a student and act in accor-
dance with it. In the college, they do not belong to a minority but
perceive themselves as part of the majority. Outside, in the real
world of the State of Israel, their experience is negative, but the
college constitutes a kind of enclave that enables the minorities in
it to safely grow and strengthen. Moreover, the colleges facilitate
interpersonal encounters, detached from the political context, with
groups that live separately in the outside world. The connections
between the students are based on the shared goals of academic
success and professional development. The different contexts
within and outside the college promote the construction of various
subidentities, which explain the different perceptions expressed by
the students.
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Colleges of teacher education are smaller and more intimate
than universities, and they tend to demonstrate warmer relation-
ships in order to influence future teachers in this direction. They
can be described as institutions that enable what Noddings (1984)
defined in her classic book as “caring.” This term can be defined
as a type of relationship between people in which the one caring
relates to the reality of another, has an intention to help them, and
acts accordingly, and the cared for responds to the efforts of the
one caring. The findings of the present study suggest that this is the
picture emerging in the teacher education colleges, which facili-
tates the students’ positive feelings. We did not find a planned
policy in the colleges to address the problems of minority groups,
but the general atmosphere enables relegation of the problems and
creation of a gap between the college reality and that outside the
Yet it is important to keep in mind that some of the Arab students,
as well as some students of Ethiopian background who study in mixed
colleges, express alienation, especially in the context of participating
in the college’s social activities. We therefore stress that the emerged
picture is not ideal and still requires intervention.
The findings point to a gap between the reality outside the college
and widespread views regarding the social balance of power, on the
one hand, and the humanistic approach of promoting social solidarity
adopted by some of the education colleges, on the other hand (Aloni,
2013). The findings further indicate that even though the colleges
participating in this study try to advance a multicultural environment
of mutual respect and caring, intervention is still needed. There are a
number of recommendations deriving from the present study that can
be offered to teacher education colleges.
Since the discrepancy between the personal experiences within the
college and the external reality was most pronounced among Arab
and Ethiopian Israelis, we now refer to these two populations. Several
barriers may hinder meaningful partnerships between the Jewish and
Arab sectors within teacher education institutions. One such barriers
is structural. As our research indicates, many of the colleges have
separate study programs for Arabs and Jews (e.g., a special track for
Bedouin students), in addition to mixed programs. Our findings indi-
cate that studying together promoted a greater sense of partnership
and understanding among the various groups, whereas studying sep-
arately reduced the number of opportunities for meaningful encoun-
ters. An additional barrier is the linguistic-cultural one. The academic
world in Israel runs mostly in Hebrew and according to the Jewish
calendar. Furthermore, students and faculty both prefer to avoid
controversial topics, including the Israeli social reality (Golan, 2018).
These obstacles should be addressed.
We recommend a college structure comprising more joint courses
and creating as many opportunities as possible for social and aca-
demic interactions between members of different social groups. The
presence of the Arabic language and culture in the college may be
enhanced in various ways, for example, by teaching courses in Arabic,
encouraging Jewish faculty and students to study Arabic, providing
activities that promote better acquaintance with different cultures in
the college, and more. As for the content, we recommend adding
dialogical courses that focus on multiculturalism and relationships
among different groups, courses that teach models of coexistence,
organizing tours to mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel, and more. We
also recommend structural changes, such as establishing specialty
centers to work on coexistence and hiring more faculty members from
minority groups (see more recommendations in Jayusi & Zalmanson
Levi, 2018).
As for the Ethiopian sector, a report published by the committee for
the eradication of racism against Ethiopian Israelis (Palmor, 2016)
recommends a number of steps to be taken within the education
system. These include fostering outstanding teachers, using books and
other contents that relate to diversity and skin color in positive
contexts, and developing mechanisms to encourage development and
implementation of programs to eradicate racism. The report addresses
the education system as a whole, and its recommendations seem
appropriate for teacher training as well.
An additional recommendation is to join programs already being
planned by policymakers, which might promote their assimilation.
Following the “tribe speech” of President Rivlin (Rivlin, 2015), the
academic program Israeli Hope (2019) was developed, which aims to
promote integration of all sectors (e.g., Arabs, ultraorthodox Israelis)
into Israeli society and economy, enabling them to collaborate in
various fields, including the academic one. The academic part of the
program has multiple aims, among them expanding diversity and
increasing representation of various groups within academic institu-
tions (students and faculty) and enhancing skills and experiences that
encourage cooperation. We recommend adopting this program in
teacher education institutions. Steps to be taken within this program
might include joint activities of Jewish and Arab students both within
each institution and between institutions. Further, we recommend that
teacher education colleges focus on admittance of Ethiopian Israelis,
assist them in integrating into the education system, and promote their
position as change makers for their communities in the schools where
they will teach.
Teacher education institutions may take an important role in cre-
ating social change. To do that, they must set humanistic values of
mutual respect, equality, social justice, and intercultural dialogue as
central values and promote programs to encourage students to inter-
nalize them. Putting multiculturalism at the center of discussion in the
colleges might bring awareness to the importance of coexistence,
promoting intergroup dialogues, and learning about the composition
of Israeli society, which is reflected in the colleges. Such programs
have the potential to result in parallel processes in schools, which also
include diverse populations. The Israel Ministry of Education empha-
sizes promoting moral education and integrating values into school
subjects and school climate in order to contribute to the establishment
of a society based on justice and equality (Israel Ministry of Educa-
tion, 2019). To promote this goal, moral education should start among
future teachers during their professional training.
Several limitations of the research are worth noting. First, the
self-selection bias: As student participation was voluntary, those who
were willing to participate might have views that are different from
those who chose not to participate. It is possible that the topic of the
research was too sensitive for some students, perhaps due to past
experiences, causing them to avoid exposing their positions in an
environment that might be seen as threatening or judgmental. An
additional limitation is the fact that both mixed and Arab-only col-
leges were included in the study. Experiences of being a minority or
majority and the sense of relatedness to the college are possibly
affected by the ethnic and religious composition of the institution. The
Arab-only colleges, though diverse in other ways, do not offer stu-
dents opportunities to interact with Jewish students of various back-
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Our recommendation for future research is to perform a mixed
study with a qualitative component that will enable us to explore more
comprehensively the themes of the current research. A qualitative
study might also counter the self-selection limitation, since it might
seem as less threatening to the individual student, as opposed to a
face-to-face interview. Furthermore, we recommend including addi-
tional populations, such as lecturers and policymakers in the colleges,
which will help expand our understanding of the current reality and of
possible ways to approach the issue.
To conclude, the structure of Israeli society and the tensions that
characterize it reflect on the relationships between students of various
groups in the college. It seems that the colleges are still facing
complex challenges relating to cultural diversity of ethnic populations
that costudy in them. We hope that the results of the present study and
the recommendations that follow them will contribute to equality and
elimination of discrimination and prejudice in teacher education col-
leges and in the entire Israeli society through the educational work of
future teachers trained by the colleges.
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Received September 21, 2019
Revision received May 27, 2020
Accepted July 23, 2020
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... The Israeli geographic periphery is made up of two districts: northern Israel and southern Israel. The term social periphery refers to socio-economically disadvantaged communities [21]. There is evidence of gaps between central Israel and peripheral regions in various life aspects: income, health, opportunity for quality education, and more [31], 37. ...
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