Stories

  • Driving Social Justice Via Municipal Elections

    30 October 2013

    October 31, 2013

    More local councils around the country will be equipped to promote democracy, social justice, and shared society issues thanks to a series of SHATIL trainings. Here’s a look at the numbers:

    Seven freshmen local council members who won seats in the October 22 elections were trained in SHATIL’s pre-election leadership courses.

    Ten other course graduates, who decided to run after taking the course, did not win their bids for municipal council seats, but leveraged their campaigns to raise important progressive issues.

    Eleven Ethiopian Israelis were newly elected to city councils. All of them attended SHATIL trainings. They join an additional 4 incumbent Ethiopian Israelis who were re-elected. 14 of these 15 representatives took part in SHATIL trainings.

    All in all, 52 activists graduated from four trainings and many more attended a range of workshops focused on leveraging the elections to promote issues such as religious pluralism, environmental protection and social housing.

    We know that candidates can use elections to drive social change even without winning the elections. Take the case of twenty-nine-year-old Shimi Sharon. He made history by becoming the first openly gay candidate for city council in Rishon LeZion, Israel’s fourth-largest city. Shimi decided to run after taking the SHATIL training. He managed to win the hearts of many in his city of 240,000 and stimulated interest in and discussion about the city’s gay community for the first time.

    “Just by running as an openly gay person, I changed things in Rishon,” he says. “The media covered my race non-stop so the public discourse was suddenly full of talk of tolerance and pluralism – just what I wanted. People are waking up to the existence, the needs and the rights of the gay community.”

    Shimi said the SHATIL course, run in collaboration with the Heschel Center, Shacharit, the Social Economic Academy and the Social Guard, was “one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

    Shay Cherpanov, a SHATIL public policy expert who co-facilitated one of the SHATIL's leadership trainings, said, “We discovered that good people all over Israel were just waiting for someone to come and give them the knowledge and tools to become publicly involved. Our task is to continue to identify these wonderful people, to equip them with tools and to guide them in their journey toward leadership.”