SHATIL Gathers Leaders in All Sectors to Strengthen North

15 December 2008 By New Israel Fund

Government officials, academic, media, business and civil society leaders gathered together last week in a joint effort to strengthen civil society in the North, bring Northern issues to the attention of decision makers and place critical social issues on the public agenda.  Heated discussions as well as practical working sessions characterized the day-long SHATIL seminar held in Carmiel.

Photo by Yoav Bachar Photography

Professor Alice Shalvi, Israel Prize winner and founder of the Israel Women's Network, made the introductory remarks.  The seminar was attended by more than 150 people. In the opening panel, David Ben Yemini, director of the government's efforts to rehabilitate the North, admitted the state has long neglected the North and that he felt ashamed when visiting Arab municipalities. Leading industrialist and Israel Prize winner Dov Lautman said that it was a mistake to ignore the peripheries that exist also in the center of the country, such as distressed neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and Ramle. He said he feared the growing social gap in Israel more than he feared the Iranian nuclear threat. Shauki Khatib, head of the Arab Higher Follow Up committee, called for changing the government's policy of neglect of the Arab sector in a democratic manner. Kol Yisrael Radio journalist Michael Miro facilitated the day.

Shlomo Buhbut, the mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshicha, spoke of the government's disengagement from the periphery. He was one of the speakers who said that while he valued the work of social service organizations (as opposed to social change organizations), their efforts enable the government to shirk its responsibilities. He called for the formation of Arab-Jewish regional councils headed by industrialists, who would bring their management know-how to the task of running the towns. Buhbut's approach was criticized by Haifa University Economics professor Danny Gutwein, who emphasized the need for a massive infusion of government funding and argued against relying primarily on social organizations to rehabilitate the area after the war.

While the opening panel presented the problems and issues, the roundtables on employment, education, economic infrastructure and industrial pollution that followed sought to identify solutions. The groups decided to continue working together after the seminar with SHATIL's help. 

Photo by Yoav Bachar Photography

Amiram Goldin, director of SHATIL's new office in Rosh Pina, which organized the day, said: "The success of this day places before us a new challenge in the area of inter-sector cooperation and gives us an excellent opportunity to strengthen the North on the one hand, and to influence the government's relationship with the area on the other."

The seminar was held on the premises of and in cooperation with the Ort Braude Academic College of Engineering in Carmiel.