The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership: From the Destruction of the Temple to Rebuilding our Society
“Twice in her history Israel was unified, sovereign and independent. And twice she fell, within a period of less than 90 years. Are signs of history repeating itself beginning to appear for our third Israel of today?” Rino Tzror, in “The Third Commonwealth has lost Control”
Jerusalem teen Shira Banki’ z”l’s murder last year at the Gay Pride parade, by an Ultra-Orthodox extremist, sent shockwaves through Israeli Society. Immediately following the news of Shira’s passing, the Yerushalmit Movement together with the “Rashut Harabim” Coalition and the support of the ROI Schusterman Community (Grassroots Grant), organized a public Shiva and vigil in Zion Square. Professionally facilitated dialogue circles enabled thousands from across the social, political and religious spectrum to meet 'face to face'. These encounters proved to be healing and transformative for many, enabling participants to reach beyond sectoral barriers to their shared humanity. Throughout the seven days of the Shiva, Zion Square was transformed from a place of violence and racism to one of reconciliation and hope. When the Shiva ended, there was a yearning for more and the “Meeting Place” initiative was born. Ever since, every Thursday night, the Yerushalmit Movement and it's ever growing supporters have filled Zion Square with music, art and dialogue. Each week, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, straight and gay, locals and passers-by join together in peaceful dialogue on various controversial issues affecting Israeli society. Even as recent terror events deepen fears in Jerusalem, people have continued to come to Zion Square to meet one another face to face and hold onto hope.
Leading on from Meeting Place’s success this year, we continue to work on innovative and unprecedented partnership with the Banki family to bring different sectors and ideologies together in the Square, to share positions and encounter the other. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership aims to engage the cream of Israeli youth, the most motivated and effective young leadership of the Israeli Scout Movement, in taking the lead in creating initiatives and activity for shared society and “tikkun olam” (repairing the world). Shira z”l’s murder was motivated by intolerant opinions, extremist thinking, fear of difference and senseless hatred. There are clear similarities that can be drawn between this murder and the social processes that brought about the destruction of the Temple. In partnership with The Israeli Scouts and The Hartman Institute we will immerse this future leadership of Israeli Society in meaningful, in depth study of Israel’s past and present, learning from our past and what it can teach us about facing the challenges of the present. Each young leader will then formulate their own connection, to create a personal plan of action, relevant to each individual’s background and position in the Youth Movement.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The seminar continues a process of “repair” following the tragic and society shifting events of last summer. By focus on the major rifts in Israeli society and the parallels in our history, we will engage Israel’s youth leadership in a process of reflection and motivation, thought and planning, asking themselves what should they be doing, as individuals and as an impactful Youth Movement, to safeguard Israeli Society as an open, caring, democratic society that respects difference, an inclusive society that is in constant dialogue and that will not repeat history and break apart again.
The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will take place in the week leading up to Tisha B’Av 2017 (with a modest pilot taking place this year on August 11th-12th 2016 which we hope to thus expand in 2017 to become the flagship seminar of the Yerushalmit Movement). It will engage 120 10th graders, hand-picked Israeli Scout leaders from across the country, who have demonstrated their leadership capability and motivation to enact change in their communities and society, locally and nationally. Based in Jerusalem at The Hartman Institute and developed and run in conjunction with them and the Israeli Scout Movement, the program will include lectures, discussion groups, guided study tours (including visiting points of tension in the City and meeting activists and community representatives), an upfront meeting with Shira Banki z”l’s parents, encounter circles in the Public Space (First Station) and much more.
Session topics will include:
A Jewish Democratic State: The tension between Jewish and democratic values and Modernity – Resolving the conflict.
Extremism – Where does it Lead? – Social activism, taking a stand and working to change the current state of affairs
Jerusalem Society Panel: Diversity in Jerusalem – Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) and Secular, Arab and Jew, Religious LGBT, Orthodox and Reform Rabbis
Repairing Society and Creating an Ideal Society – The Call to Action
The Book of Lamentations (Megilla Eicha) – What is its relevance today? Warnings and the relevance of history.
The program aims to strengthen our process of initiatives to repair society after the murder of Shira Banki z”l, bringing Jerusalem and Israel’s peoples together in dialogue and encounter. Our goal is to impact society through practical application of the ability to “agree to disagree” and actualize shared society.
“Meeting Place” has succeeded in bringing together Jerusalemites of all backgrounds and ideologies to face and encounter the other and begins to sow the seeds of shared living in a shared society. (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moqJMtWeNlE )
This initiative transformed into a regular Thursday night fixture, dedicated to Shira z”l’s memory. In February, in a historic decision, in partnership with the Yerushalmit Movement and the Banki family, the Municipality of Jerusalem agreed to make the memory of Shira Banki and the values of tolerance, pluralism and respecting the other an integral part of the heart of Jerusalem, by redesigning and renovating Zion Square. This marks the tremendous success of this grassroots initiative and the propagation of the values that we as an organization believe in and are dedicated to strengthening in Jerusalem. The official announcement for the Municipality’s architectural design competition, updated to include our vision, was published in the Israeli media. Our model of generating social change through grassroots organizing, together with simultaneous high-level political engagement, has connected the will of the people to the executive power of government, with both sides winning, together.
“Meeting Place” was featured in Ha’aretz. The article puts our initiative into context and explains how our work is succeeding in transforming the Square into a place of pluralism and tolerance in the memory of Shira Banki z”l. (Link to Ha’aretz article: Gay Pride Murder Inspires Grassroots Movement to Reclaim Jerusalem Landmark)
As this initiative only began in June 2015, we are still in the early stages of this project, yet have made enormous strides in this short amount of time. Effectiveness has been measured by the consolidation of the initiative’s activity in the Square as a constant and continuous presence and the Square having become recognized and actively utilized as central meeting point for inter sectoral encounter and dialogue both by the people of Jerusalem and by the Municipality. We have also partnered with many organizations on this project including: The Open House, Chavruta (an organization for the religious LGBT community), The Jerusalem Municipality, Gesher, Elul, Reshut Harabim and the ROI Schusterman community. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership will actualize our new partnership with The Hartman Institute and The Israeli Scout Movement.
How do you measure the success of your program?
“Meeting Point” has and continues to be an overwhelming success. The Shira Banki Tisha B’Av Seminar for Israeli Youth Leadership is a new project directly emanating from this success. The success of the seminar will be measured by number of applicants and feedback immediately after the seminar, together with a six month follow up survey on the seminar’s effect on participants’ engagement and activity as youth movement leaders and their impact on their neighborhood and society.
Three Weeks of Discourse: A Meeting Place Initiative
The three weeks between the seventeenth of Tamuz and Tisha B’av in the Jewish calendar are traditionally viewed as a time of mourning and reflection, a time when the Jewish people experienced great calamities, amongst them the destruction of the first and second Jewish temples. Talmudic sources tell us that the first temple was destroyed because of the Jewish people turning to pagan practices, i.e. distancing themselves from Judaism, while the second temple was destroyed because of strife and discord, i.e. gratuitous hate (Sin’at Hinam).
The Three Weeks of Discourse combines the lessons of both destructions, by creating a platform for dialogue and discussion, that will bring people together in a city divided, often polarized, by disagreements and discord, while lending new meaning to the period of the three weeks and Tisha B’Av – occasions largely insignificant to most secular Jews, and viewed as religious practice by many observant Jews. The idea is to create discussion circles in five mixed neighborhoods of Jerusalem, each event surrounding a topic of concern for local residents. Thus, the discord or disagreement will become an opportunity for bonding and growth – for community building, rather than a source of strife. It will also provide an opportunity to introduce the ideas underlying these occasions in the Jewish calendar. While they are currently observed only by the religious Jews, we believe that the underlying ideas and values of these occasions are universal, humanistic and very much relevant today, and can be introduced as a unifying force, connecting different factions of the city’s population. Since they are unknown to much of that population, we would like to make them accessible through this project, highlighting their universal, humanistic, underlying principles.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The Yerushalmit Movement strives to transform Jerusalem - a diverse yet fragmented city - into an inclusive, pluralist “Community of Communities”, living side by side in harmony and working together for the common good. The Three Weeks of Discourse subscribes to the general mission of the Yerushalmit Movement by creating a platform for dialogue and discussion within local, peripheral neighborhoods, bringing together the residents of each neighborhood to discuss a common point of controversy.
The purpose of the program is to:
1)Create a platform for dialogue and discussion of a common disputed, in each of five neighborhoods, rendering the point of controversy from obstacle to opportunity.
2) Highlighting the ideational foundation of the three weeks and Tisha B’Av, showing currency, relevancy, and suitability to the entire gamut of Israeli society, religious and secular alike. Using the three weeks and Tisha B’Av a point of access to universal, Jewish values.This initiative is an offspring of our Meeting Place program, which aims to transform public spaces into meeting places, that are safe, open and welcoming to all. Meeting Place currently facilitates direct and informal encounters with the 'other' in Jerusalem’s epicenter of diversity, Zion Square. Its weekly events engage prejudice through non-curated face-to-face confrontation between sectors. The Three Weeks of Discourse is a pilot program, taking the notion of a central, public, Meeting Place, to the periphery, creating discussion circles in welcoming public spaces in five peripheral neighborhoods of Jerusalem, while building on the notions of dialogue and discourse instead of the strife and discord that have pervaded this period in times past.
The Three Weeks of Discourse: A Meeting Place Initiative provides a meeting point for residents and ideas. It operates in five mixed neighborhoods, introducing the concept of Tisha B’Av and the three weeks leading up to it from the seventeenth of Tamuz – events largely absent from the secular Jewish calendar – as a reference point for dialogue and discussion, encouraging the residents to listen to opposing views and take part in the discourse on topics that are specifically tailored to each neighborhood. Our goal is to use our differences as a foundation of community building, instead of a polarizing feature, leading to gratuitous hate (Sin’at Hinam) that is said to have been prevalent in the time leading up to the destruction of the second Jewish temple.
The program itself will hold discussion circles in each of the participating neighborhoods. Each of these will center around a theme of controversy in the neighborhoods. These themes will be chosen together with residents from each community, who will also actively assist in the planning and creation of the event. Two speakers on opposite sides of the debate – notable public figures, relevant to the topic in question – will open discussion by introducing the controversy and the dilemma and discussing it. The participants will then be invited to take part in the conversation, aided by two facilitators.
The events will be publicized on social media and billboards, targeting local residents from diverse communities in each of the participating neighborhoods. Local community centers will aid us in providing a space for discussion, and several of our partners, including The Haredi Insitute for Public Affairs, and the Shacharit Institute will help by suggesting topics, content and speakers, together with the residents. The neighborhoods chosen are mixed neighborhoods with diverse populations. Currently we are thinking of Ramot, Beyt Hakerem, Kiryat Menahem, French Hill, and Arnona/East Talpiot, however this list is not yet finalized and may be subject to change.
The first need is that of unification, directly related to the lessons of Tisha B’Av. The past few years have seen disturbing trends in Israeli society. Increasing polarization and division along religious, political and cultural lines has been accompanied by political and social discourse laden with suspicion and conflict. This hostile sectarian climate has each group feeling victimized and seeing the other as a threat rather than as a source of enrichment. The shared public sphere - a place in which the full spectrum of civil society is found - is (or should be) a place for bringing people together and countering these trends. Instead, however, it sometimes ends up being nothing more than a place of random and detached encounter, and other times the site of fierce battles for domination by interest groups seeking to drive out others, causing many people to feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own neighborhoods and cities.
Mixed neighborhoods are embroiled in sectarian battles for domination. The shared public space, whether in neighborhoods or city-wide localities, is one of the last remaining places where people from diverse backgrounds frequent, and can potentially meet those who are different from them. We see the public sphere as a meeting place for direct encounter with the other, facilitating experiential education in respectful dialogue and disagreement, and making the shared public space welcoming and safe for all residents.
Another need is make the Jewish values underlying the occasions of Tisha B’Av and the three weeks, universal and accessible to all. These occasions have traditionally been observed almost exclusively by the religious members of Israeli society, while ignored by the secular. Both secular and religious view them as a religious occasion, overlooking, for the most part, the universal, humanistic, aspects which arise from the historic destruction and calamity of this period. We believe these universal values of dialogue over strife, construction over destruction, and love over hate, should be significant to all members of Israeli society, by providing the ideational foundation for using our differences to construct a community, rather than destroy it. To talk out our differences, using them as an opportunity to meet and interact. To build upon. Turning these occasions into access, and axis, points for secular and religious Jews alike, can itself provide a unifying factor, by infusing these days with meaning for all members of Jewish life, whether observant or not, engaged or otherwise.
For a list of the Yerushalmit Movement’s notable accomplishments see the Common Section. Since this is a new program, it has yet to achieve its goals, however, we believe its promise can be demonstrated by the initial pilot event that took place last year on Tisha B’Av itself, after which we received several requests to expand and develop this into a more permanent program. The following description demonstrates the program’s impact and promise:
On the eve of Tisha B’Av last year, we met in Zion Square for discussion circles – hundreds of Israelis from different ages and backgrounds who chose to come together and discuss the things that need fixing in Israeli society. This event grew out of another of our projects - Meeting Point- and was supported by ROI. The idea for this event stemmed from one of the discussions in the Tisha B’Av event. Rabbi Benny Lau approached me with the idea to develop this project, holding further events, demonstrating beautifully how one event can lead to another, with participants becoming more and more involved and engaged. This is the essence of the grassroots movement we are trying to ignite the Yerushalmit Movement, in which such initiatives stem from participants and volunteers. In particular, Initiatives like this, which make use of the commemorative days of the Jewish calendar events as unifying cultural days, afford greater and better opportunities to turn the public sphere into a meeting point between various populations, while connecting them to their Jewish heritage.
How do you measure the success of your program?
This is a new program, based on a one-time experience we had running a similar event on Tisha B’Av last year.
The indicators that will be used to measure the success of the program include:
- Holding 5 discussion circle events in mixed neighborhoods throughout Jerusalem
- Active involvement of 5-10 residents from each of the host neighborhoods, in the planning and design of the events.
- Recruitment and participation of leading figures from the various factions involved in the discussion circles, representing differing opinions, to speak and initiate discussion at the events
- Attendance by at least 500 residents from all participating neighborhoods.
- Attendance by a diverse audience, representing a variety of the communities that make up the participating neighborhoods.
- Participants reporting a new (or renewed) understanding and connection to the idea of the three weeks and their meaning and relevance to current life in Israel.
- Requests to continue and expand the program in participating and other Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Women Changing Jerusalem (Meurevet Yerushalmit)
“Women Changing Jerusalem” is a ground breaking model of civic collaboration for Israeli Society through the power of women to find solutions to the challenges of both daily life and inter sectorial conflict, opening doors previously shut to its participants in the realm of inter sectorial dialogue and encounters and social change. The program is innovation at its best, transforming disadvantages into advantages, utilizing the unique multicultural fabric of the City's communities to empower cross sectoral women's leadership through a community organizing approach that builds practical solutions for the common good based on trust and empathy. The WCJ network provides a platform for sharing educational and cultural resources and encourages the wider community to share the City's public space promoting tolerance and pluralism and enabling each and every sector to feel at home.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
Women Changing Jerusalem involves engaging a unique gathering of populations to work together towards common goals, a cross sectoral forum of women from all spheres of Jerusalem society, in a women’s leadership program for neighborhood activists', together with a series of public events, both aimed at empowering cross sectoral community leadership active in mixed neighborhoods and strengthening the feminist discourse among decision makers.
Target Population & Participant Demographics: Women from Jerusalem’s neighborhoods who constitute representation of a wide variety of sectors of Israeli society – i.e. Ultra-Orthodox, Secular and Modern Orthodox women from all ethnic and cultural groups, who have a proven record of social activism and community engagement and seek to take on a more significant role in shaping a shared society in their neighborhood and in the City at large.
Three new groups located in three diverse mixed neighborhoods will be launched on 2017/8, bringing together 100 women community leaders from a full spectrum of sectors to address the most pressing issues affecting women in Jerusalem.
The program comprises:
- Female Leadership in Neighborhoods - Group sessions working towards the creation of a cadre of female leadership and promotion of joint neighborhood projects.
- The 'Women of Jerusalem' Forum – Working together towards collaboration in daily urban issues such as education, infrastructure, community and more.
- Shifting the Discourse - A series of public events, aimed at strengthening the discourse among decision-makers.
Goals for 2017-2018:
1. Establish a cadre of nine groups of potential women social activists, comprising two to three cohorts, in three selected neighborhoods, totaling 100 participants.
2. Each group will choose one joint program to enact in the public sphere and the Movement’s will support and mentor its implementation.
3. Participants who exhibit the strongest leadership potential will be recruited to or be directly involved in community initiatives aimed at transforming the neighborhood into a “Community of Communities” and at developing solutions that address the common good.
4. Creation of a leadership network (comprised of the leaders that stand out in each neighborhood) who will work together with the Municipality’s Division for the Advancement of Women to address and platform the needs of women and young families.
Women are the first to suffer from insufficient urban services for families and children on the one hand and from religious extremism and social exclusion on the other. The lack of women in prominent leadership positions in the Municipality has meant that the needs of women and young families have not been a City priority for many years. Issues such as education, security, resources for early childhood and the needs of working mothers, have all been neglected. Our experience over the past five years has showcased how the empowerment of women as agents of change and community leadership and increasing the presence of women in the public discourse leads to impactful social change in the community. The current program builds on this experience, encouraging and empowering women throughout the City to take ever increasing roles as community organizers, social activists and agents of change. In addition, in a polarized environment such as that which exists in Jerusalem, with divides between Jew and Arab, Secular and Orthodox and the wealthy and the poor, collaboration between women activists from different sectors can serve as an innovative and inspiring civic bridge. With a bottom-up approach that avoids the macro political issues, “Women Changing Jerusalem” effects grassroots change in the different communities of Jerusalem, fostering new relationships and interactions between them.
Due to our success there has been great demand for expansion of the program to additional neighborhoods in strategic locations across the City, from center to periphery, providing representation citywide and a model for national emulation.
The events in the public space run by our participants have engaged hundreds of local city residents. Our new women activists’ work in their communities is reaching thousands and is effectively changing the discourse in their neighborhoods and citywide. Thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations
“Women Changing Jerusalem” received the honor of being chosen to be part of the Arison Foundation’s Kulanana program for 2016 that includes mentoring, support and symbolic funding to boost initiatives for shared society: http://www.ruachtova.org.il/kulanana. This is a significant expression of confidence in our project and its ability to empower women to enact social change and inter organizational and inter sectoral collaboration.
How do you measure the success of your program?
In 2016 we succeeded in establishing five groups (Kiryat Hayovel , Nachlaot, Ramot and Gilo). Our qualitative evaluation (interviews and questionnaires) indicated that participants benefited greatly from the experience of encountering the “others” who live in their City, creating relationships with women they would otherwise not have encountered on a personal, professional or leadership level. The group experience succeeded in breaking down stereotypes, with participants discovering a myriad of common issues, the power of their ability and the importance of working towards the common good. Our new women activists’ work in their communities reaching thousands. Additional thousands are also impacted through our program advertising and awareness campaigning as well as through our work with our partner organizations.