Israel and Identity — exploring Israeli Society with Muhammad Zoabi

By Galya Tregenza Hall

The theme of Israel and Identity was at the forefront of our webinar with Muhammad Zoabi.

Muhammad, an Arab citizen of Israel, is a public speaker and a social activist. He uses social media platforms to raise awareness and discussions about issues of Israel’s Arab minority and the local LGBTQ community. Since 2014, Muhammad has been in the Israeli public eye for raising issues not commonly addressed in mainstream Arab and Jewish circles in Israel. 

Muhammad gave a synopsis of the history of the Arab Israeli community as well a fascinating overview of the Zoabi family in Israel, a family that has been very involved in Israeli politics and society. He provided some background to certain family members such as Seif Al-Dein Zoabi who was the first Arab to serve in the Haganah, the first Arab member of the Knesset, the first Muslim mayor of Nazareth and the former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset.  Another relative, Abd Al-Aziz Zoabi, is  known for being the first Arab Deputy Minster in Israel, appointed under the leadership of Golda Meir. He founded the Jewish Arab Association for Peace and Equality and also served as the mayor of Nazareth. Abd Al-Rahman Zoabi is a further relative who was Israel’s first Arab Supreme Court Judge, appointed in 1999.

Muhammad gave an incredibly honest and fascinating presentation, including opening up about his own personal coming out story and the issues facing the local LGBTQ community in Israel today.

Following on from his presentation, Simon Anstey from Chai FM interviewed Muhammad and together they continued to explore and unpack several social and political issues around the themes of his Arab Israeli identity and also his Gay Muslim Arab identity.

When asked about the recent, ground-breaking deal reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Muhammad responded with great hope and positivity and also excitement about Israel becoming less isolated in the region. He noted that the fact that more and more neighbouring Arab countries are willing to work and co-operate with Israel is something that will help Israelis feel more at home and more comfortable in their own region and could also serve to bridge the gap with the Palestinians.

An engaging Q&A session concluded the webinar that was absorbing and thought provoking from start to finish. Muhammad’s layered identity serves to provide an important look at Israeli society and his insights were both valuable and informative. He is a man who loves Israel and is committed to being an active and engaged member of his society. 

Our evening with Muhammad Zoabi was an opportunity to delve deeper into some of the complexities and challenges that churn away within Israeli society today. It was an opportunity to learn and to engage. Ultimately, it was an evening that highlighted the Israel that we love — not a perfect country but a nation where diversity exists and thrives and where the different narratives and expressions contained within society are heard.

The SAZF hosted the webinar in partnership with the World Zionist Organisation and we extend our sincere thanks for their support. 

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