Roi Assaf

Changing Lives in Israel’s Arab Community

Roi Assaf - SDG Changemaker - Social Impact Israel
Head of Social Development Department, Economic Development Authority for Minorities, Social Equality Ministry (2015-2020)
SII: Please briefly describe your work

RA: I work at the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian communities, originally founded in 2007. The Authority’s main goal is to encourage the economic and business activities of these communities, thereby integrating them into the national economy.

My responsibility within the Authority focuses on managing implementation of Government Resolution 922, GR-922, an unprecedented five-year economic development plan for the Arab community that was adopted in late 2015 as a concrete expression of the economic and social importance the Government attaches to the economic integration of the country’s minority population. The Resolution allocated approximately NIS 10 billion in development budgets to the Arab community, covering a broad scope of areas that include: employment, education, community safety, infrastructure and transportation. I’m proud to have been among those who initiated this important Government decision

SII: Name three principle values that you associate with your work?

RA: Cooperation with Israel’s Arab community.

Transparency in governmental activity.

Paying attention to details – and needs. 

SII: What particularly motivates you to make a difference?

RA: Seeing the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens change for the better, seeing the infrastructure gaps in their community close step by step.

SII: What positive impact do you see emerging through your activity?

RA: So much. For instance, the number of Arab university students has soared from 22,000 to 50,000; in this context, the percentage of woman studying to get their degree has tripled! By availing themselves of tools created by GR-922, Israel’s Arab citizens themselves deserve much of the credit for the resulting positive change in their socio-economic status.

Employment, another important focus area of GR-922, has grown consistently. The program helped over 21,000 Arab citizens participate in training centers and find employment. Around 2,000 new jobs were added as part of an employer incentive program, 20 business accelerators were created throughout the country and four industrial centers in Arab towns are being established. Subsidies for Arab employees in the high-tech sector have totaled NIS 4 million. In addition, financing for the construction of 35 daycare centers has been allocated – another significant factor in improving employment figures in the future.

SII: What is your favorite project?

RA: Working to create progress in higher education has been incredibly fulfilling. So, too, our activities in the realm of informal education; GR-922 set aside specifically for the Arab community about 25% of its entire budget in this area.

I am particularly enthusiastic about “Etgarim,” an Education Ministry program that advances informal education in the Arab community with the goal of providing an equal opportunity to perfect skills and develop a sense of self-efficacy. “Etgarim” empowers Arab children and youth in the 8-18 age group by expanding their opportunities, upgrading content and infrastructure quality, improving supervision and strengthening support capabilities both at the local and national level.

SII: How has your work been affected by the COVID19 crisis?

RA: On the one hand, some infrastructure projects have been accelerated; on the other hand, the resulting economic crisis has unfortunately been a setback for many who would have otherwise benefitted from GR-922.

More about Roi Assaf:

Roi has worked for the Authority for the Economic Development of Israel’s minority community since 2010.

He received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in international relations and political science from The Hebrew University. He holds an additional bachelor’s degree, in economics, from the Open University.

Roi is also a graduate of the MAOZ socio-economic leadership program.

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