Fohs Foundation is a private foundation (legally, a charitable trust) formed in 1937 by Julius and Cora Fohs to help build a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Its mission is now expressed as the promotion of a living environment favorable to Jewish identity, community, prosperity, and security, and to help ensure a bulwark against the periodic emergence of anti-Semitism throughout history.
Over time, the focus of foundation efforts has shifted with assessments of need. Early on, the focus was on natural resources, including water, essential to supporting a growing economy and population in Palestine. Another funding concentration was agricultural research and technology, especially in the desert region of the south. As these challenges were increasingly met by advancing science, the foundation dedicated more resources toward social barriers to progress, such as integration of immigrant communities and disadvantaged minorities.
In the early 2000s, the Foundation decided to concentrate its efforts in an under-recognized and underfunded area: challenges associated with the status of the Arab/Palestinian population within Israel and how improved relations between Jewish and Arab communities might benefit both populations. Improving the status of a disadvantaged community is morally compelling in it’s own right, but in Israel, because of its particular history, the potential payoff to the whole society is magnified. See Current Focus below for elaboration on this theme.
Fohs Foundation trustees believe that a positive future for Israel depends as much on a strong internal social fabric as on an effective military and constructive international relations. A strong and secure Israel is one that is a just society for all citizens, with policies that increase domestic and international support and good will. A major obstacle to lasting internal peace, security, and a healthy economy, as well as to respect in the international community, is the lack of equal opportunity and equal treatment of the Arab/Palestinian* population that remained in Israel after 1948.
Although citizens of a democratic Israel, these long-term inhabitants have not participated fully in or realized the benefits of the “economic miracle” that is the Israel of today. They have suffered and continue to suffer a level of discrimination, disadvantage, and poverty that is inconsistent with the promise of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which was fully explicit in its commitment to minorities in general and the Arab minority in particular:
“The State of Israel….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……….We appeal….to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the up-building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”
The failure to include this population, now approximately 20% of inhabitants, in Israel’s development represents a significant missed opportunity. Successful inclusion and integration (while respecting and protecting community identity and culture) could have made Israel a beacon for multicultural societies without sacrifice of the Jewish identity of the majority.
Fohs Foundation’s posture, however, is not to look back, not to criticize Israel or place blame, but rather to promote opportunity going forward. Although the challenge is greater because of a long history adverse to inclusion, most Arab/Palestinian citizens are eager to participate fully in the larger society of which they are a part.
Fohs Foundation is committed to promoting and supporting movement toward greater integration and equal status within the economy; the removal of educational and social barriers to inclusion; reforming institutional policies and practices that inhibit full participation; and reducing attitudinal barriers whereby certain persistent erroneous beliefs and prejudices between majority and minority communities make enhanced shared living a challenge.
The foundation envisions an Israel in which Jews and Arabs/Palestinians work and live together in mutual respect to create a society where the values and aspirations of each community are more fully realized, not despite, but because of the presence and contribution of the other community. Both populations stand to gain enormously from progress toward this vision.