Two weeks ago, a large group of leading Israeli influencers gathered at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Against the background of the election campaign and the ravages of COVID, the Unity Pact was launched in a festive event with the participation of President Reuven Rivlin.
The pact is the brainchild of Israel Prize winner Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. It’s the first phase of his expansive plan to promote unity and heal the ruptures in Israeli society, which have gotten worse during the pandemic and the repeated election campaigns of the past two years.
To formulate the pact, Rabbi Grossman created the Civic Forum, on which Joint Council of Mechinot CEO Dani Zamir serves alongside Miriam Peretz, Idan Raichel, Rachelle Fraenkel, and other public figures from the fields of education, social activism, academia, and culture. Together, they will spearhead social and educational activities across the country to build connections between groups in Israeli society.
Having signed the Unity Pact, the members of the Civic Forum will convene discussion circles and forums involving tens of thousands of members of the next generation of leaders: mechina students, youth movement members, yeshiva students, and more. The goals are for these young people to develop the pact’s principles and to develop lesson plans to be delivered this year to Israeli teens of all stripes.
At the ceremony, Joint Council CEO Dani Zamir said:
“The State of Israel has an electrifying vision: the vision of the declaration of the establishment of the state, the vision that establishes and declares the Jewish national home while preserving the dignity and rights of all who live there, without regard to religion, ethnicity, or gender. That vision, we believe, must be preserved and sustained, and its power is dependent on its being preserved in full. Israeli society requires an ethical and social anchor to develop perseverance in the face of the cultural divides and disunity that have of late become so prominent and so powerful in our nation. The coronavirus crisis is not the cause. It is a symptom. In recent years, our common ground has become blurred. Instead, there is divisive tribalism based on prejudice, on fear of the other, and on unfamiliarity with others who are different.”
“The reality of Israeli society is very complex and difficult to understand. Today, the Israeli public—especially teenagers, whom I know from up close—lack the tools to analyze and understand the complexity of that reality. What is more, many teens lack a sociopolitical awareness and take no interest in what goes on in the country. Such a state of indifference among teenagers poses a danger to our democratic future, because these are the citizens of the future. They possess the right and the obligation to lead the State of Israel in the future. We believe that an educational dialogue among teens and educators from all parts of society can improve Israeli society and create a more promising future.”
“The Unity Pact that we just signed is the most precise expression of our aspiration for a society that is more tolerant and more inclusive. We are doing this because we see education as a tool that permits social change, but with declarations alone, we cannot create the desired change.”
“Therefore, as part of this project, we intend to launch a number of activities for teens from all sectors: secular, religious, Haredi, Muslim, Druze, and Jews of all backgrounds and communities. We will work to recruit a number of educational institutions from all sectors: mechinot, youth movements, youth organizations, yeshiva high schools, student organizations, and more. Among those young people, we seek to create discussion circles and forums based on lesson plans, under the guidance of counselors and educators. The goal of the discussion circles will be to develop the principles of the Unity Pact into a normative set of behaviors in a range of areas reflecting the civic values that we wish to instill.”
“We’re setting out, simply because we have no choice. As a founder of the the Rabin Pre-Army Leadership Academy and the Joint Council of Mechinot, over the past 20 years I’ve met thousands of teens. I see their potential, the possibilities, the eagerness, the passion for meaning, for togetherness, for action that brings fulfillment. I’m certain that we can turn the Unity Pact from a wish into reality.”