Despite the challenges posed by the new and emerging Israeli social landscape, we must know: the nascent Israeli mosaic is not a decree, but a great opportunity filled with cultural richness, inspiration, humanity and sensitivity.
The new Israeli order must not decline us into segregation and separation.
– President Rivlin (2015, Tribes Speech)
The Israeli society is characterized by ongoing tension and growing division. It is in dire need of people with the capacity to create social cohesion: People who are calm and treat others with respect and fairness. People who are sensitive to the aspects of behavior that can lead to pain and suffering of others.People who are able to diffuse a conflictual social situation with determination, but in a gentle way. Such individuals possess a talent for creating cohesion, and can be identified in various social situations when they use their gifts to “make peace and create bonds”. We define such individuals as having high levels of CQ (Cohesive Quotient). It is assumed that high levels of CQ can be identified in children at early ages, but it needs to be nurtured, developed and legitimized over time.
In November 2017, we launched our new our Shared Society Leadership Program titled “NAMAL” (engl. “home port”) in collaboration with The Shdemot Center for Community Leadership at the Oranim College and The Ministry of Education’s Community Engagement Program, and under the auspices of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Co.Lab – Collaboration Laboratory for Social Innovation to fill this gap. The program’s aim is to enable pupils with natural leadership skills and a high CQ to become agents of societal change. The training we provide strengthens dialogue and mediation skills and increses the pupils’ inborn talents for furthering social cohesion.
A key aspect of our program is bringing together youth from different school sectors and improving their relationship, especially between Jewish and Arab Israelis. Therefore this new program is designed as a multi-sector intervention. Program participants develop leadership skills geared towards enhancing cohesion in their schools and communities based on the ability to promote dialogue in conflict situations, mediate in times of crises and encourage acknowledgement and respect for others worldview, culture and religious beliefs. With an innovative toolbox of skills to reduce exclusion, alienation, fragmentation and indifference in their close communities, these adolescents will campaign for shared responsibility, tolerance, equality and inclusivity within Israel’s increasingly divided society.
“I participate in a lot of leadership programs and this project was very different – very special. The content was delivered in an experiential way. The subjects we discussed and how they were delivered made me want to listen to more and make a change!”
We started pilot projects with six different schools within the Municipality of Haifa with the vision of promoting social cohesion among adolescents. In only two years, we were able to double the amount of schools we cooperate with in this program, as we have started implementing the same methods in the city of Tiberias and its surroundings. To date, we have cooperated with 13 different schools in the North of Israel in the context of NAMAL.
Furthermore, we have developped host school meetings, a multisector trip and meetings for graduates from our program in order to make a more long-lasting and sustainable impact.
The Shared Society Leadershop Program consists of two parts: The school internal meetings as well as the multi-sectorial meetings. In the graphic, there’s a overview of the activities that take place during one project cycle. Each program participant is involved in about 10-15 group meetings as well as 5-7 multisector meetings.
Election of Program Participants
Participants of our Shared Society Leadership Porgram are not chosen by their educators, instead being elected by their fellow pupils due to a high CQ. Through this community based model, we are able to work with the pupils that others conceive as promoting empowerment, kindness and community acceptance. Oftentimes these are not the “popular kids”, but rather quiet pupils with a positive influence in their school environment. In this manner, between 10-20 pupils are chosen from each school to participate in the program.
Our trainers work with the elected youth to make them realize their potential to change the Israeli society using their unique qualities along with the responsibilities that come with a leadership position. In the training programs, the pupils are guided in reflecting existant problems and issues within their schools and communities, which they can impact through their actions.
Host School Meetings
In order to promote cross-sector friendships, we have developped a new type of meeting called Host School Meetings which now represent an essential part of our Shared Society Leadership Program. These meetings give schools an opportunity to host groups from other school sectors throughout the school year. During these meetings, the visiting groups is welcomed by the school management staff and after a conversation has receives a tour of the school. At every meeting, a joint activity takes place which is dedicated to a different subject each time.
In this way, each school gets the chance to present what is has to offer and each group is able to share its unique strengths and identity with the other participating groups. At the same time, the youth is exposed to the striking similarity of all the schools, which allows them to tread on common ground.
The graduate program invites pupils with high CQs who were selected for the program in previous years to take part in additional multi-sectoral meetings. These meetings allow existing friendships to grow stronger, create new cross-sector bonds among pupils as well as continued in-depth work on the topics related to our Shared Society Leadership Program. Creating this extra component to the project is an important step towards making our programs even more sustainable and effective.
“Meeting students from other schools and sectors gave me a new perspective and way of looking at things. A lot of barriers fell away, and many of my opinions changed after meeting them.”
“It was interesting to talk to other boys about social issues that bother us and to understand together how they can be resolved. It gave a unique perspective and created deep conversations.”
In 2019, Matzmichim (Uplifters) was able to organize a summer trip with NAMAL participants to the “mixed city” of Acre. The city was chosen as a destination due to the fact that it have many different population groups living together, which has caused severe problems in the past. At the same time, Acre is the seat of many social initiatives that are dedicated specifically to mediation and co-existence, which is expressed in the operation of municipal institutions as well as close contact maintained by key figures of the Jewish and Arab community.
The participants were introduced to social initiatives based in Acre as well as the city themselves. Other content was provided by Matzmichim (Uplifters). During the trip, relationships between pupils coming from different sectors were strengthend due to their proximity as well the in-depth discussions about a wide variety of subjects, which helped reduce prejudice among them and address issues like contraditions in identity narratives and racism.
“It was meaningful to meet people I would not have met otherwise, – suddenly they have a face – to get to know them personally, to understand that they are simply people, to talk as teenagers to teenagers.”