תמונה סמינר לאתרThis is the way to make a change!

By: Ehud Shem-Tov, Israel Social TV

Translation: Shifra Sered

Hebrew version and video can be viewed here

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In such a violent and demoralizing reality, one that reinforces the lack of faith of citizens of this country, Jews and Palestinians who share a belief in a better future saw at the end of last week (Dec 4-5) a glimmer of light and encouragement.

Jews from Jerusalem (Kiryat Yovel), Tel Aviv (Florentine, Yad Eliyahu) and Kiryat Shmona broke into spontaneous dancing on Friday night, along with Palestinians  from Tamra, Maghar and Yafia (Yaffet Al-Nassera).

What fueled the party was not alcohol or marijuana, but a lecture on inequality in the periphery that resonated with participants, as well as other activities designed to increase knowledge and understanding of our common realities. These activities are all part of the Mahapach-Taghir Seminar.

Social change, human rights and peace-building organizations ask themselves (or are asked): “How can we broaden and expand our participant pool? How can we access new groups and communities? What has to be done in order to speak to those who are not yet convinced of our mission?” It seems that Mahapach-Taghir has cracked the code.

Mahapach-Taghir’s strategy for social change is based on community. A community of belonging and empowerment is the framework in which citizens work together to improve their situation. The communities of Mahapach-Taghir are formed as a result of locating local leadership (usually mothers), joined by students who are recipients of the “Perach” scholarship. Citizens are first attracted to join the Mahapach-Taghir community in order to fill their personal needs, however Mahapach-Taghir uses this opportunity to impart knowledge and tools in order to rip apart a little the screen that separates the daily life of communities from the neo-liberal policies that govern our world. For example, in the opening lecture of the community seminar, Yaron Dishon from the Adva center defined what constitutes the “periphery” in Israeli society. He argued that “periphery” is not only defined by geographical distance from the center of the county. “Periphery” is not only socio-economic disparities. The ‘periphery” also includes ethnic and cultural marginalization and isolation from political power. The communities of Mahapach-Taghir work to achieve what individuals alone cannot achieve. For example, in a program called “Second Opportunity”, women organized a group to guide them through the process of earning an university degree. Members of Mahapach-Taghir communities do not deal with governmental policies or take a position on the future of the region, however the joint meetings of Jews and Palestinians who understand that their fate is determined by the same government policy which seeks to maintain them in the periphery, are the ones that create solidarity and motivation for action. On the bus on the way home from the seminar at Nes Ammim near Akko, a young Jewish participant admitted that she used not to know what it means to be a Palestinian. Another participants asked, “when is it correct to define someone as Palestinian? Only when they are from the Palestinian Territories or also when they live in Israel?” A volunteer who made Aliyah to Israel asked a young Palestinian, “what do you think of Jews who make aliyah to Israel?” A number of women from the Florentine community expressed  interest in visiting the Tamra community. It turns out that the community of Tamra already plans on meeting with the community of Kiryat Shmona.

All together an exciting and encouraging weekend seminar.

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