Anat Tzur, Director of the Jerusalem Foundation
On Thursday, we will mark the international day of tolerance, which was established by the United Nations. This day emphasizes the importance of tolerance towards the “other” and those who are different from us, while highlighting the dangers of intolerance, discrimination, and inequality. As anyone who lives in Jerusalem knows, tolerance is the operative word in our mixed city. Thus, this week is a fitting time for such a conference.
For the past 50 years, the Jerusalem Foundation, which initiated this conference, has been working enable the city’s various groups and residents to live here together, fostering a sense that this city is their home – alongside the “other.” Dialogue and joint living are the basis for the Jerusalem Foundation’s work, and we are proud to lead city-wide efforts to that end.
Living in Jerusalem means living among different nationalities, cultures, and religions; a human mosaic that both gives the city its charm but also evokes challenges. A mixed city can engender tensions but can also be an opportunity to foster a unique way of living and true dialogue. We are here today to learn about new and innovative ways to foster dialogue with the “other” – dialogue that is based on mutual respect and understanding. This conference is a platform upon which professionals and the general public can meet, experience, learn, and try out various dialogue methods, examine the current discourse, and create a framework for future cooperative endeavors and initiatives.
At the Jerusalem Foundation, we believe this is possible. We stand behind this belief daily, by supporting dozens of projects that touch the lives of thousands of people: Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. I hope that together we can come up with new and creative ways to foster dialogue and, more importantly, bring these ideas to fruition.
I’d like to thank the person who enabled the Jerusalem Foundation to hold this conference for the fifth time, Professor Jan Philip Reemtsma from Germany, who supports many city-wide initiatives for tolerance through the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Science.
I’d also like to thank our partners in this conference: Leah Tobias and Uki Maroshek-Klarman from the Adam Institute, who have directed and managed this conference over the years; Yigal Simon and the people from Besod Siach, who joined the conference for the first time this year and were an important addition; Shemi Amsalem and the staff of the Zipori Center for Training and Leadership, who provided generous assistance; Devora Liss and Yahav Palmon, who worked to produce this conference; and of course to my colleagues from the Jerusalem Foundation: Udi Spiegel, who oversaw the conference and Tali Federman. Lastly, thank you to all the participating organizations; I hope that this conference will be a catalyst for deepening and broadening dialogue efforts within Israeli society.
Leah Tobias, Director; Saber Rabi, Program Director for Jerusalem’s Arab population – the Adam Institute; Yigal Simon, Chair of Besod Siach, and Dr. Udi Spiegel, Director of Education, the Jerusalem Foundation.
The Jerusalem Foundation and the Adam Institute are pleased to hold the fifth conference in the series on joint living in mixed cities: “Dialogue in Mixed Cities – Innovative Encounters.” For the first time, the conference is being held in the Zipori Center in the Jerusalem Forest. This year Besod Siach joined us in organizing the conference, which focuses on promoting dialogue in Israeli society, as a multi-cultural and multi-national society, while creative innovative encounters and dialogue among its members. The goal is to create a dignified public sphere, by eliminating suspicion and alienation between different ethnic groups, nationalities, and groups, and fostering a joint sense of citizenship. This shared view sees cultural, national, gender, age, and socio-economic differences as a resource and as opportunities to create a shared, egalitarian, dignified, multi-cultural, and multi-sectorial public sphere.
One fascinating aspect of Israeli society is the number and diversity of dialogue organizations, initiatives, and individuals – all focused on making our society a better place. Israel is a polarized, torn, and heterogeneous country, thus creating a nearly insatiable need for dialogue between sectors and groups, which often feel under threat from the “other”: Jews and Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, religious, and secular Jews, the central cities and periphery, gender divisions, etc. Some of these polarized groups experience such tensions as to make dialogue a significant challenge, yet at the same time we see so many initiatives that strive to overcome gaps, mediate, and conduct meaningful and healing dialogue. A conference is precisely the platform upon which participants – professionals and the general public alike – can experience, learn, and try out different ways of encountering the “other,” while exploring the current discourse and creating new frameworks for supporting cooperation between the different organizations and new initiatives. This is our opportunity to thank the plethora of organizations that presented various models of dialogue, each with their own tools, techniques, and methods.
The Zipori campus has enabled a conference unlike the previous conferences. Over the course of two days, 38 workshops are being held in different spaces concurrently; we will encounter each other in the main building’s classrooms and lecture hall, the forest tent, the poolside lawn, and even within the forest itself. Each time slot features 7-8 different workshops and activities, and we invite participants to come together for debriefing and social encounters between sessions and over meals.
First and foremost, the Adam Institute would like to thank the Jerusalem Foundation for its ongoing support of this series of conferences, especially for the generous donation from Prof. Reemtsma and the Hamburg Foundation from Germany, who have made these conferences possible for the last five years. The Adam Institute would also like to thank Besod Siach for its work promoting dialogue between conflicting groups in Israel, for the joint efforts in preparing this conference – from the initial planning stages through the entire process, which will culminate here over the next two days.