HaNoar HaOved, the youth movement associated Dror Israel, opened a new and exciting program this year to promote shared society in mixed cities – an issue that became acute last May when deadly inter-community riots and racist mobs from both sides rocked Israel’s mixed cities such as Jaffa, Haifa, Ramle and Akko.
The youth movement has been working towards shared society for decades. In fact, some 20% of its 90,000 youth members are Arab- or Druze-Israelis, with chapters located in both mixed cities and in Arab towns and villages. The members of these branches experience the same activities and content as their Jewish peers, including fun after-school activities, hiking and camping, volunteering locally, participation in national campaigns addressing issues important to youth, seminars about democratic values and shared society, and of course, activities and seminars with other youth members from the entire spectrum of Israeli society.
This year, the youth movement established a pilot program called Manara to recruit and organize Jewish youth leaders for a year of service working specifically on the issue of shared society in mixed cities. The youth movement has hundreds of Jewish-Israeli post-12th-graders spending each year living and volunteering with youth in disadvantaged communities for the year prior to their army service. Members from the Arab sector spend a year or two after high school in National Service in the framework of the youth movement – a program designed for Arab or Jewish-religious youth as an alternative to IDF service, which allows them to keep living at home, volunteering in their community or others, and afterwards receiving much of the same grants and social benefits for former soldiers in Israel.
The Manara program is unique in that it is focused on solving one of Israeli society’s most pressing issues – these teens are dedicating their year to serving one particular mixed city, while living there in a group, studying Arabic and Arab culture, learning about shared society and more.
This year’s group has had a successful first half of the year living in Jaffa and working there with the community, focusing on the youth. Next year, the program will expand to two groups – one in Jaffa and one in Akko – and two recent successful weekend recruiting seminars hosted 70 teens interested in the program, in which they visit Arab towns in the north, met with the youth movement chapters there, and received tours of the towns and a mosque.
We wish these future leaders the best of luck and success in helping bring Jews and Arabs together in Israel and solving this pressing national issue!