After the Tent Cities: Maintaining the Momentum
Social Congress – Israel’s first Social Congress, initiated by the protest leaders, took place in Jaffa September 23, drawing hundreds of people to the continuing work of the protest movement. The event gave activists and the general public an opportunity to participate in formulating a new social budget for the country. Shatil’s Eran Klein led a workshop on public participation in the budget process and Sultan Abu Abeid led a dialogue between protest leaders and Negev Bedouin residents about the Prawer Report, which involves the forced relocation of 30,000 Bedouin citizens and was formulated with no Bedouin input. Shatil also brought in psychologist Nachi Alon, who gave a TED-like talk on nonviolent resistance.
Digging in for Real Change – The festival-like atmosphere of the summer’s protest has progressed into a new operational phase. The tents are gone, with the last occupants evicted by police, but passions are still flying high. As protest leader Daphni Leef put it, “The eyes that have been opened will not close again.” And Shatil’s Avi Dabush wrote in his weekly Hebrew update: “As a man in the street, I noticed – or maybe imagined – that the Russian and Mizrachi cashiers and the elderly guards added a few centimeters to their height and a new width to their smiles.” Energy is now going into strategizing, meeting, writing, connecting and involving more people – and opposing the Trachtenberg Committee’s disappointing recommendations.Shatil is assessing and working on developing the long-term infrastructures that will allow for the continued effectiveness of this unprecedented protest, particularly with regards to the critical aspect of increased citizen participation in the democratic process.
Uniting for Jewish Pluralism –“Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Social justice is one of the foundational values of the Jewish tradition. From exhortations to care for the widow and orphan, to the commandment to leave the corners of one’s field for the poor, Judaism and justice go hand in hand. In this spirit, a Shatil-initiated gathering of religious pluralism activists representing 17 organizations discussed the role of Jewish discourse and of pluralism organizations in the social protest; pondered how to get more rabbis involved; worked on getting more pluralism organizations involved; and laid the foundations for possible joint future activity. The day was planned in collaboration with Ne’emanei Torah V’Avodah, B’Maaglei Tzedek (Circles of Justice) and Mimizrach Shemesh (Center for Jewish Social Activism and Leadership in Israel) and the NIF and facilitated by myself and Shatil’s new Pluralism Project Coordinator, Tammy Katsabian.
Maintaining the Protest’s Momentum in Be’er Sheva – Shatil and NIF have just completed a mapping of the dozens of initiatives born during and after the street phase of the protest in order to facilitate improved coordination, pooling of resources and decision making. The meeting of protest activists and Bedouin at the Social Congress led to further dialogue between the two groups in the Be’er Sheva tent encampment, facilitated by Sultan Abu Abeid and leading to a decision to support each others’ protests. On October 6, more than 8,000 people demonstrated in Be’er Sheva against the recommendations of the Prawer Report. Shatil’s Rina Okby and Sultan Abu Abeid were instrumental in helping to organize the demonstration and especially to get Bedouin women involved. Shatil’s Shlomo Berihun, who has been working for more than a year with the Ethiopian immigrant parents in Petah Tikva some of whose children have still not been accepted into new schools when the government was forced to close an all-Ethiopian school—has been connecting them to the social protest. Students, neighborhood residents; representatives of contractors’ organizations, the Municipality, and social change organizations; university lecturers, and more attended the first Be’er Sheva Housing Conference on October fifth. Initiated by the Shatil-guided Be’er Sheva Youth Parliament, the conference, addressed by Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich, discussed national and local housing problems and suggested solutions.
Including Immigrant Activists – In addition, Shatil organized a much needed gathering of Ethiopian and Russian immigrant activists (as well as pensioners and Holocaust survivors from the FSU community) with Technion urban planner Dr. Emily Silverman, head of the Alternative Experts Committee’s Affordable Housing team and chair of the NIF-funded Coalition for Affordable Housing, so that critical immigrant views and needs would be incorporated into the team’s report.