In anticipation of the upcoming municipal elections in Israel, SHATIL has been training activists and reaching out to citizens to ensure public participation and the inclusion of social and environmental agendas in candidates' platforms. Following is an overview of several such events.
Mayoral candidates' forum in Tzfat
Two hundred local residents met mayoral candidates October 22nd at an evening co-sponsored by SHATIL and Citizens' Platform, a group of local social activists. The candidates answered questions composed by residents and signed a visionary public declaration for improving the lives of Kiryat Shmona residents with a focus on environmental, educational, women's rights, employment and accessibility issues. Local appreciation of SHATIL was reflected in the headline in the area newspaper, Chadashot (News): "Kudos to SHATIL for organizing the candidates' forum…"
Three hundred people attended a mayoral candidates' forum that focused on environmental issues in Tzfat on October 27. The forum was organized by Tzfat – the Pearl of the Galilee, the NGO Halevav (Heart) and SHATIL's Galilee office. Four of the five candidates attended, marking the first event in this election cycle to bring together the candidates and the public. Candidates answered questions written by residents related to conservation, trash collection, water drainage and other environmental issues that impact their daily lives. The candidates unanimously agreed on the importance of preserving the pristine beauty of Emek Hatchelet, the valley that local organizations -- with SHATIL's help -- have been working to save from building contractors. At the end of the evening, Pearl of the Galilee chair Mimi Smucha said: "…It was clear that all present understand that the conservation of Tzfat, one of Israel's four holy cities and a treasured jewel of the entire Jewish people, must be a top priority in the current elections."
Four of the nine Haifa mayoral candidates participated in a conference organized by the Association for the Promotion of Arab Education in Haifa and SHATIL, called "Arab Education in Haifa: Directions and Trends." All four signed a declaration committing themselves to specific steps to advance Arab education in the city.
Ensuring a Green Agenda in the Negev and Throughout the Country
SHATIL's Environmental Justice Project conducted intensive grassroots trainings related to the elections in Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Tzfat, Arad, Be'er Sheva, Mitzpe Ramon and Rahat. In its role as a member of the steering committee of Green Now, a national project of the Green Environment Fund, SHATIL conducted an election advocacy training for Negev environmental activists. SHATIL also provided organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Nature's Society Environment Forum in Be'er Sheva with advocacy and media tools to turn local elections in the Negev "green." Together with Life and Environment, SHATIL held two sessions of a three-session seminar for 30 environmental organization representatives on influencing municipal budgets. To maximize impact, the last session is scheduled for after the elections.