Working Together, Living Together: Jewish and Palestinian Citizens of Israel Crossing Imagined Group Boundaries


  • Cathy Nicholson


This paper explores the permeability of imagined boundaries between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel who work together as medics in Israel. The medics’ shared work environment, based on medical ethics and inclusiveness across staff and patient populations, was effective in providing a safe, equal and satisfactory professional work setting. This contrasted with the external non-working environment where structural asymmetry placed the minority group in a position of perceived inequality and non-recognition. A sense of threat related to the Jewish Israeli narratives, highlighted by the war in Gaza in 2014, led to intergroup tensions that seeped into the work environment. This took the form of a justification of the state to deal with the conflict, juxtaposed with the Palestinian Israelis conflicted loyalties between their Israeli citizenship and their Palestinian heritage. The role of contact research is discussed to argue how intergroup tensions can be played out across different social and political contexts. The theoretical concept of themata, defined as a foundation for developing social representations around dialogical constructed boundaries, was integral to map and explore group positioning through a qualitative methodology This approach was found to be useful in exploring an environment in a natural setting, set within a context of structural asymmetry and ongoing conflict. These findings contribute to existing research on interpretations of contact theory, intergroup boundaries and possibilities of reconciliation.