We barely completed the month of Jewish holidays, and faced national elections. With the forming of a government coalition and the appointment of ministers underway to create the most right-wing government Israel has ever seen, our work to encourage and generate shared society based on equality for all citizens of the State of Israel will encounter surmounting challenges in gaining public funding and support. We are as determined as ever to do our share to promote democracy, equality, and shared society regardless of the political environment.
Some of the ways in which we are currently making this happen are through our Shared Center for Art which is opening new courses and welcoming the first participants in a newly-founded Jewish and Arab Artists’ Residency Program, the first of its kind in Israel. Arabic courses at the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace are opening now with a record number of participants. Programs bringing Jewish and Arab children together for encounters are in greater demand than they have been for years. Training of mediators for our mediation centers in Arab communities attracts media attention while the program advances the role of communities in promoting and protecting their residents’ personal safety, and diminishing crime and violence.
Palestinian citizens of Israel contributing to crime and violence alleviation in their communities by creating mediation centers. Givat Haviva is applying the expertise and experience of its Jewish-Arab Center to training mediators in a project that goes a step further to establish mediation centers. In the past several months, 22 local, civic leaders from a range of occupations have been trained in mediation and conflict resolution in four communities: Sha’ab, Buheina-Jahadat, Gush Halav, Mizra. The fifth participating community, Peki’in, will embark on the program by the end of the year. The training program is recognized by the Ministry of Justice. Mayors and local authorities in the participating communities support it. The mediators were chosen based on their commitment to volunteer and the fact that they are widely accepted by the members of their communities.
Professionalism is guaranteed by the forthcoming stages of the program in which the newly accredited mediators will be supervised by veteran professionals and academic review. Courts will refer cases to mediation as the program progresses. The community will learn to seek the mediation center’s resolution of local conflicts rather than referring to the courts initially. Already, the program has been widely covered by the Arabic media in Israel. All indications point to its continued success and replicability.
Educating the Jewish public to understand the role of inequality in generating crime in Arab communities was the purpose of the Bnei Hamakom [literally, “the local people”] campaign. We produced a series of video clips with the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung that explained the issues of violence and crime in Arab society. This campaign aimed to prevent perpetuating myths and misinformation which would allow Jews to claim that Arab culture has allowed this rising crime. The campaign further seeks to explain the historical development of mistrust of the police and the police avoidance of law enforcement in Arab locales. The NEET phenomenon among young adults is also covered as a cause of the problem, while a problem in its own right, and requiring government intervention.