UK envoy backs Israel diversity project

By Nathan Jeffay, July 14, 2011

A new project to ease tensions in Israeli society received a boost on Monday, when Britain's ambassador to Israel threw a reception at his Ramat Gan residence to celebrate its launch.

Kulanana is an alliance of 15 nonprofit organisations from sectors of Israeli society that rarely meet. It includes the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy group Hoshen, the Charedi-run rescue service Zaka, and the Arab Al-Qasemi College. At the reception, representatives of the partner organisations mingled with each other and with Israeli politicians and embassy officials.

The non-profits launched Kulanana three weeks ago, promising that it will promote "fairness, diversity and citizenship" through programmes and campaigns. "It is, simply, about coming together to shape a fairer society," said the alliance's initiator Mike Prashker, executive director of one of the partner organisations, Merchavim.

Ambassador Matthew Gould became involved earlier this year when he allocated funding for a representative of each partner organisation to go on a study trip to Britain in March. They met British non-profits and government employees.

Mr Gould said that he is enthusiastic about Kulanana because he believes that the current dynamic between the various groups in Israel is "dangerous for Israel's coherence as a society". He said: "Israel has changed in many positive ways since I was last here ten years ago. But the gaps are wider than before - between secular and Orthodox, Arab and Jew, centre and periphery… And it is troubling for Israel's friends."

Last updated: 11:10am, August 2 2011