Meeting Neighbors

Believing that all human beings were created "b’Tzelem Elohim" – in the Image of God – is at the core of the Israel Movement For Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) as well as for Keren b'Kavod, the IMPJ's formal fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility. Keren B’Kavod serves Israeli citizens and residents from all walks of life regardless of residential status, religion, race, sexual orientation or any other societal or class factor. This, naturally, includes Israeli Arabs, Christians, Bedouins and Druze, who enjoy Keren B’Kavod’s humanitarian assistance in the form of food and other necessary aid (when necessary), as well as a multitude of programs meant to provide underprivileged populations with the necessary skills to overcome the different hurdles presented in a modern society.

 

Keren B’Kavod is determined to fulfill the vision of the Prophets of Israel – “a nation shall not lift up sword against another nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2; 4). It is the commitment to Jewish values and the commandment of “loving thy neighbor as thyself,” found no less than 38 times in the Bible, which has committed Keren B’Kavod to fight religious and nationalistic intolerance and continuously striving to promote a shared society between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

 

Since its establishment, the State of Israel has been dealing with the tension between its aspiration to be a home for the Jewish people and its commitment to universal democratic values. One of the major challenges in this context is the attitude towards Israel's Arab citizens, who constitute the largest ethnic-cultural minority in Israel. Political and historical circumstances have caused tension between the Jewish majority in Israel and the Arab minority. Suspicion and mistrust among the groups, as well as a state of persistent inequality, led to alienation, frustration and severe feelings on both sides. Keren B’Kavod, as the fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility of IMPJ, operates in the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, committed to cultivating religious and cultural tolerance and ensuring equality for all citizens of Israel. The Reform Movement in Israel works to promote a common society, believing that all human beings are created in the image of God, respect for different cultures and religions while fighting the racism that pervades Israeli society. 

 

The participants on both sides discuss current topics of mutual interest through professionally facilitated discussions, visit cultural sites and the homes of their partner families. The program aims to reduce alienation between the sectors, wishing to build a common basis for acquaintance, friendship, and coexistence, with an emphasis on building authentic relationships between both groups through experiencing shared time and positive memories. The meeting site of each session alternates between the Arab and Reform Jewish communities. The long-term character of the program facilitates the development of genuine relationships on both a collective and family-to-family basis. By doing so, the participants break cultural barriers and overcome long-held stereotypes about each other, which enables them to develop a level of familiarity and closeness.

 

Keren B’Kavod’s ‘Meeting Neighbors’ program works to create a fruitful and respectful gathering leading to a discussion between families and individuals, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The program brings together Jewish families from Reform congregations from all around Israel with Arab families from neighboring communities for at least a 6 months period, in a series of meetings structured and guided by Jewish and Arab facilitators. Each group contains 5-7 families from each side that are living a few kilometers from each other but never had the opportunity to meet for a personal human family meeting in a supportive framework. 

 

As we look to the future, we are committed to ensuring that all Israeli citizens and residents live in dignity and respect towards their fellow-person and towards those who are different from them. In the words of the old tradesman from Salant, “as long as the candle is lit, there is still time to repair.” Together, we can spread this light and overcome the darkness that has yet to leave our midst – will you join us?  

 

 

 

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