In December, Mahapach-Taghir brought together 140 residents and university students volunteers from all over the country to learn and grow together at our yearly, overnight activist seminar. This seminar is one of the most important events organized by Mahapach-Taghir and is unique in that it brings together Jews and Palestinians; Jews, Druze and Muslims; students and mothers all with a focus on partnership and solidarity.
The seminar included lectures, workshops, and seminars on a wide range of topics. These were presented both by local Mahapach-Taghir coordinators and guest experts from a wide array of NGOs in Israel. Particularly thought-provoking was a lecture by Marcello Wexler. He focused on the way the Israeli educational system exists within a system of inequality that makes it hard for children from marginalized communities to succeed in school. By exploring inequality on a structural level, Wexler encouraged participants to think past laying blame on parents and community members and rather challenge the educational system. Women activists and mothers from Yad Eliyahu noted that Wexler’s lecture helped them see similarities in the negative experiences of their children within the educational system. It also inspired students to think of creative ways to engage and encourage children in Mahapach-Taghir Learning Centers who struggle academically.
While most of the enriching and social activities took place in mixed-community groups, the seminar also created space and time for intra-community reflection and dialogue. Coordinators facilitated group reflection and helped to translate some of the theoretical frameworks presented in workshops and lectures into the local experiences of our communities. This time was particularly meaningful as the community groups were comprised of student volunteers and residents. Students learned from the experience of residents and residents explored together with students the best way to coordinate the Learning Centers, community campaigns and community days.
In an increasingly segregated and hostile sociopolitical climate, the importance of seminars that allow for sharing across boundaries cannot be stressed enough. One student from Tel Aviv University who attended the seminar noted that this is the first time she has been in a learning environment with both Jews and Palestinians. While students and residents came away with new skills and perspectives learned in workshops, seminars and discussion groups, much of the learning took place in less formal environments. For example, after dinner, Mahapach-Taghir coordinators hosted a Community Coffee Night. Participants were split into random groups. They were offered a menu of questions and discussion topics to explore as a group.
Over coffee, tea and cookies, participants discussed their first loves, their political views, their dreams and more! While seemingly trivial, activities like these humanize “the other” and help to create a sense of unity and solidarity. By communicating open and honestly, we grow our communities from just our geographical surrounding to a community of activists all over the country working together for social justice.