The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership: From the Destruction of the Temple to Rebuilding our Society
“Twice in her history Israel was unified, sovereign and independent. And twice she fell, within a period of less than 90 years. Are signs of history repeating itself beginning to appear for our third Israel of today?” Rino Tzror, in “The Third Commonwealth has lost Control”
Jerusalem teen Shira Banki’ z”l’s murder last year at the Gay Pride parade, by an Ultra-Orthodox extremist, sent shockwaves through Israeli Society. Immediately following the news of Shira’s passing, the Yerushalmit Movement together with the “Rashut Harabim” Coalition and the support of the ROI Schusterman Community (Grassroots Grant), organized a public Shiva and vigil in Zion Square. Professionally facilitated dialogue circles enabled thousands from across the social, political and religious spectrum to meet 'face to face'. These encounters proved to be healing and transformative for many, enabling participants to reach beyond sectoral barriers to their shared humanity. Throughout the seven days of the Shiva, Zion Square was transformed from a place of violence and racism to one of reconciliation and hope. When the Shiva ended, there was a yearning for more and the “Meeting Place” initiative was born. Ever since, every Thursday night, the Yerushalmit Movement and it's ever growing supporters have filled Zion Square with music, art and dialogue. Each week, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, straight and gay, locals and passers-by join together in peaceful dialogue on various controversial issues affecting Israeli society. Even as recent terror events deepen fears in Jerusalem, people have continued to come to Zion Square to meet one another face to face and hold onto hope.
Leading on from Meeting Place’s success this year, we continue to work on innovative and unprecedented partnership with the Banki family to bring different sectors and ideologies together in the Square, to share positions and encounter the other. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership aims to engage the cream of Israeli youth, the most motivated and effective young leadership of the Israeli Scout Movement, in taking the lead in creating initiatives and activity for shared society and “tikkun olam” (repairing the world). Shira z”l’s murder was motivated by intolerant opinions, extremist thinking, fear of difference and senseless hatred. There are clear similarities that can be drawn between this murder and the social processes that brought about the destruction of the Temple. In partnership with The Israeli Scouts and The Hartman Institute we will immerse this future leadership of Israeli Society in meaningful, in depth study of Israel’s past and present, learning from our past and what it can teach us about facing the challenges of the present. Each young leader will then formulate their own connection, to create a personal plan of action, relevant to each individual’s background and position in the Youth Movement.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The seminar continues a process of “repair” following the tragic and society shifting events of last summer. By focus on the major rifts in Israeli society and the parallels in our history, we will engage Israel’s youth leadership in a process of reflection and motivation, thought and planning, asking themselves what should they be doing, as individuals and as an impactful Youth Movement, to safeguard Israeli Society as an open, caring, democratic society that respects difference, an inclusive society that is in constant dialogue and that will not repeat history and break apart again.
The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will take place in the week leading up to Tisha B’Av 2017 (with a modest pilot taking place this year on August 11th-12th 2016 which we hope to thus expand in 2017 to become the flagship seminar of the Yerushalmit Movement). It will engage 120 10th graders, hand-picked Israeli Scout leaders from across the country, who have demonstrated their leadership capability and motivation to enact change in their communities and society, locally and nationally. Based in Jerusalem at The Hartman Institute and developed and run in conjunction with them and the Israeli Scout Movement, the program will include lectures, discussion groups, guided study tours (including visiting points of tension in the City and meeting activists and community representatives), an upfront meeting with Shira Banki z”l’s parents, encounter circles in the Public Space (First Station) and much more.
Session topics will include:
A Jewish Democratic State: The tension between Jewish and democratic values and Modernity – Resolving the conflict.
Extremism – Where does it Lead? – Social activism, taking a stand and working to change the current state of affairs
Jerusalem Society Panel: Diversity in Jerusalem – Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) and Secular, Arab and Jew, Religious LGBT, Orthodox and Reform Rabbis
Repairing Society and Creating an Ideal Society – The Call to Action
The Book of Lamentations (Megilla Eicha) – What is its relevance today? Warnings and the relevance of history.
The program aims to strengthen our process of initiatives to repair society after the murder of Shira Banki z”l, bringing Jerusalem and Israel’s peoples together in dialogue and encounter. Our goal is to impact society through practical application of the ability to “agree to disagree” and actualize shared society.
“Meeting Place” has succeeded in bringing together Jerusalemites of all backgrounds and ideologies to face and encounter the other and begins to sow the seeds of shared living in a shared society. (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moqJMtWeNlE )
This initiative transformed into a regular Thursday night fixture, dedicated to Shira z”l’s memory. In February, in a historic decision, in partnership with the Yerushalmit Movement and the Banki family, the Municipality of Jerusalem agreed to make the memory of Shira Banki and the values of tolerance, pluralism and respecting the other an integral part of the heart of Jerusalem, by redesigning and renovating Zion Square. This marks the tremendous success of this grassroots initiative and the propagation of the values that we as an organization believe in and are dedicated to strengthening in Jerusalem. The official announcement for the Municipality’s architectural design competition, updated to include our vision, was published in the Israeli media. Our model of generating social change through grassroots organizing, together with simultaneous high-level political engagement, has connected the will of the people to the executive power of government, with both sides winning, together.
“Meeting Place” was featured in Ha’aretz. The article puts our initiative into context and explains how our work is succeeding in transforming the Square into a place of pluralism and tolerance in the memory of Shira Banki z”l. (Link to Ha’aretz article: Gay Pride Murder Inspires Grassroots Movement to Reclaim Jerusalem Landmark)
As this initiative only began in June 2015, we are still in the early stages of this project, yet have made enormous strides in this short amount of time. Effectiveness has been measured by the consolidation of the initiative’s activity in the Square as a constant and continuous presence and the Square having become recognized and actively utilized as central meeting point for inter sectoral encounter and dialogue both by the people of Jerusalem and by the Municipality. We have also partnered with many organizations on this project including: The Open House, Chavruta (an organization for the religious LGBT community), The Jerusalem Municipality, Gesher, Elul, Reshut Harabim and the ROI Schusterman community. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will actualize our new partnership with The Hartman Institute and The Israeli Scout Movement.
How do you measure the success of your program?
“Meeting Point” has and continues to be an overwhelming success. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership is a new project directly emanating from this success. The success of the seminar will be measured by number of applicants and feedback immediately after the seminar, together with a six month follow up survey on the seminar’s effect on participants’ engagement and activity as youth movement leaders and their impact on their neighborhood and society.
Women Changing Jerusalem (Meurevet Yerushalmit)
“Women Changing Jerusalem” is a ground breaking model of civic collaboration for Israeli Society through the power of women to find solutions to the challenges of both daily life and inter sectorial conflict, opening doors previously shut to its participants in the realm of inter sectorial dialogue and encounters and social change. The program is innovation at its best, transforming disadvantages into advantages, utilizing the unique multicultural fabric of the City's communities to empower cross sectoral women's leadership through a community organizing approach that builds practical solutions for the common good based on trust and empathy. The WCJ network provides a platform for sharing educational and cultural resources and encourages the wider community to share the City's public space promoting tolerance and pluralism and enabling each and every sector to feel at home.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
Women Changing Jerusalem involves engaging a unique gathering of populations to work together towards common goals, a cross sectoral forum of women from all spheres of Jerusalem society, in a women’s leadership program for neighborhood activists', together with a series of public events, both aimed at empowering cross sectoral community leadership active in mixed neighborhoods and strengthening the feminist discourse among decision makers.
Target Population & Participant Demographics: Women from Jerusalem’s neighborhoods who constitute representation of a wide variety of sectors of Israeli society – i.e. Ultra-Orthodox, Secular and Modern Orthodox women from all ethnic and cultural groups, who have a proven record of social activism and community engagement and seek to take on a more significant role in shaping a shared society in their neighborhood and in the City at large.
Three new groups located in three diverse mixed neighborhoods will be launched on 2017/8, bringing together 100 women community leaders from a full spectrum of sectors to address the most pressing issues affecting women in Jerusalem.
The program comprises:
- Female Leadership in Neighborhoods - Group sessions working towards the creation of a cadre of female leadership and promotion of joint neighborhood projects.
- The 'Women of Jerusalem' Forum – Working together towards collaboration in daily urban issues such as education, infrastructure, community and more.
- Shifting the Discourse - A series of public events, aimed at strengthening the discourse among decision-makers.
Goals for 2017-2018:
1. Establish a cadre of nine groups of potential women social activists, comprising two to three cohorts, in three selected neighborhoods, totaling 100 participants.
2. Each group will choose one joint program to enact in the public sphere and the Movement’s will support and mentor its implementation.
3. Participants who exhibit the strongest leadership potential will be recruited to or be directly involved in community initiatives aimed at transforming the neighborhood into a “Community of Communities” and at developing solutions that address the common good.
4. Creation of a leadership network (comprised of the leaders that stand out in each neighborhood) who will work together with the Municipality’s Division for the Advancement of Women to address and platform the needs of women and young families.
Women are the first to suffer from insufficient urban services for families and children on the one hand and from religious extremism and social exclusion on the other. The lack of women in prominent leadership positions in the Municipality has meant that the needs of women and young families have not been a City priority for many years. Issues such as education, security, resources for early childhood and the needs of working mothers, have all been neglected. Our experience over the past five years has showcased how the empowerment of women as agents of change and community leadership and increasing the presence of women in the public discourse leads to impactful social change in the community. The current program builds on this experience, encouraging and empowering women throughout the City to take ever increasing roles as community organizers, social activists and agents of change. In addition, in a polarized environment such as that which exists in Jerusalem, with divides between Jew and Arab, Secular and Orthodox and the wealthy and the poor, collaboration between women activists from different sectors can serve as an innovative and inspiring civic bridge. With a bottom-up approach that avoids the macro political issues, “Women Changing Jerusalem” effects grassroots change in the different communities of Jerusalem, fostering new relationships and interactions between them.
Due to our success there has been great demand for expansion of the program to additional neighborhoods in strategic locations across the City, from center to periphery, providing representation citywide and a model for national emulation.
The events in the public space run by our participants have engaged hundreds of local city residents. Our new women activists’ work in their communities is reaching thousands and is effectively changing the discourse in their neighborhoods and citywide. Thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations
“Women Changing Jerusalem” received the honor of being chosen to be part of the Arison Foundation’s Kulanana program for 2016 that includes mentoring, support and symbolic funding to boost initiatives for shared society: http://www.ruachtova.org.il/kulanana. This is a significant expression of confidence in our project and its ability to empower women to enact social change and inter organizational and inter sectoral collaboration.
How do you measure the success of your program?
In 2016 we succeeded in establishing five groups (Kiryat Hayovel , Nachlaot, Ramot and Gilo). Our qualitative evaluation (interviews and questionnaires) indicated that participants benefited greatly from the experience of encountering the “others” who live in their City, creating relationships with women they would otherwise not have encountered on a personal, professional or leadership level. The group experience succeeded in breaking down stereotypes, with participants discovering a myriad of common issues, the power of their ability and the importance of working towards the common good. Our new women activists’ work in their communities reaching thousands. Additional thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations.