Updated: May 7
As Israel celebrates its 75th birthday, political tensions are everywhere and the government's proposed judicial reform has added pressure to local issues. Recently, Dror Israel brought together leaders and representatives of various local communities in the city of Rehovot to talk. The meeting was part of “Mifgashei Yisrael- Israeli Encounters,” an initiative organized by Dror Israel in partnership with other civil organizations. All social, political, ethnic, and religious groups in this mixed city were represented including members of the ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, and LGBT communities. Trained Dror Israel educators led a robust conversation about national and local issues.
Israeli society is very segmented and Rehovot is no different. But the representatives of these communities chose to meet despite their differences. They recognized the need to build bridges, and that conversation creates understanding which can lead to cooperation. Participants agreed that unity of the people is what must triumph if they are to solve local problems.
One of the participants from the ultra-Orthodox community said: "I don't buy into all the mess that is happening now. I believe that if we keep talking, it will be fine." Another participant added, “The time has come for us to talk about the elephant in the room. We need to deal with our differences because we are all stuck here together.”
At the end of the meeting, participating community leaders and representatives decided to organize a city-wide Encounter, inviting all Rehovot residents. Led by these leaders, with the help of Dror Israel, the event will feature round table discussions, where neighbors from all backgrounds will meet to discuss the current situation in an attempt to heal the national divide so all Israelis might celebrate a special Yom Ha’atzmaut-Israel @ 75 together.
Mifgashei Yisraeli – Israeli Encounters have taken place in over 20 cities and towns throughout Israel. Parents have gathered at schools, local community centers have run meetings in the town squares, all to create a forum for constructive conversation, respectful disagreement, and ultimately, to build connections between Israelis across the religious, ethnic, social, and political spectrum.