The Ethiopian Israeli who’s barred from a nightclub because of his skin color. The Arab Israeli who can’t get hired for a job because he’s Arab. The teenage girl stabbed because she was marching for Gay Pride in Jerusalem.
These are just some examples of intolerance, inequality, and extremism that are leaving ugly marks on Israeli life today, creating huge divides that threaten Israel’s ability to be a democratic society.
The greatest problems demand the boldest vision in response. Co.Lab, a cutting-edge signature initiative for UJA-Federation of New York in Israel, answers the call.
Co.Lab brings together 18 leaders from diverse communities in Israel to learn about each other, tackle the challenges they face on a daily basis, and develop new solutions that will strengthen Israel as an inclusive and vibrant society. The Co.Lab fellows began meeting this past December. They are each change-makers in their fields who would not have crossed paths without Co.Lab.
On June 8, these social leaders brought their passion and ideas to UJA in New York to share their dreams for creating a new reality. Dreams like an Arab-Jewish Co-Housing Initiative that will create the rise of neighborhoods shared by Jews and Arabs.
“Close neighbor relations model how we can handle complexity, without solving everything,” notes Danny Gal, who developed the idea with Laila Srour Hashivon, both Co.Lab Fellows.
Danny is CEO of Kav Mashve, an organization that promotes equal employment opportunities for Arab academics within the Israeli business sector. Laila is Ofek program director at Ma’ase Center that offers young Arab adults opportunities to volunteer for a year of service in their communities.
The Educators Bridge, conceived by Co.Lab Fellows Moshe (Kinley) Tur-Paz and Riki Siton, is another strong vision that brings together secular and Haredi principals to create joint projects with their schools. By working together, Haredi and secular faculty and students will create new bonds that will ripple throughout their communities.
Moshe is director of the Jerusalem district for the Ministry of Education. Riki is head of the Chevruta Project that encourages ties between Haredi and secular Israelis.
These are just samples of new visions coming out of Co.Lab. Social change is never easy. But the stakes for Israeli society have never been higher. With this diverse group of visionary leaders, everything is possible.