Israeli civic participants address social issues

By Anna Sheinman, January 31, 2013

British Friends of the influential Israeli educational charity Merchavim, which promotes understanding and co-operation between diverse groups in Israel, held a series of talks this week on civic engagement after the election.

Seven debates, entitled “Can Israel live with itself?”, were held with partners including Bicom and the UK Task Force, at London venues from Radlett Synagogue to the House of Commons. The panel included representatives of the Arab, Ethiopian and Jewish communities in Israel.

The first debate was introduced by Sir Trevor Chinn, who highlighted the “massive dissimilarities” in the Israeli population which causes frictions that Merchavim tries to address, and he drew a parallel with religious and racial tensions in the UK.

Arab-Israeli journalist Ali Waked talked about the disappointing Arab participation in the Israeli elections and said: “This is the challenge: for Arabs to practise their citizenship.”

Ethiopian Jew Pnina Radai spoke about continuing racism in Israel, but said she felt Yair Lapid was “something fresh” and that Ethiopian participation in political life was increasing. And educator Nehama Weingarten Mintz noted the leap in political engagement of Charedi women.

UK helps to fund Merchavim charitable work

Merchavim (“spaces”) is an educational charity which encourages “shared citizenship” through education, both of children and the general public. It works in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education and receives funding from the UK, US, France, Germany and Holland.

Last updated: 1:24pm, January 31 2013