Israel Likely to Cut Funding for Popular Jewish-Arab Dialogue Project

A project that brings Jewish and Arab teens together with the purpose of promoting coexistence is at risk of closing down as funding promised by the Education Ministry has not been forthcoming.

A project that brings Jewish and Arab teens together to replace alienation with respect is at risk of closing down after Passover, as funding promised by the Education Ministry has not been forthcoming.

The Mifgashim program ‏(Encounters‏) at the Givat Haviva Educational Center in the north involves a two-day seminar on the Givat Haviva campus, where Arab and Jewish high schoolers meet for workshops defined as “providing an initial basis for fashioning a future in Israel based on mutual respect.” Additional workshops are held afterward in the pupils’ schools.

For several years, the program was sponsored solely by the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva, the educational center of the Kibbutz Movement. About a year-and-a-half ago, the Education Ministry agreed to adopt Mifgashim and run it jointly with Givat Haviva, agreeing to match whatever funds Givat Haviva raised for the project.

The ministry committed to this arrangement for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 school years with an option for an additional year. As a result, the plan for this year was to double participation to 3,000 teenagers.

But according to Yaniv Sagee, Givat Haviva’s director, “When the school year had barely begun, this past October, the Education Ministry began to back off and told us that there was a problem with continuing the initiative because the funding wasn’t certain.”

Sagee said that officials of the ministry’s Youth and Society Administration have repeatedly told him how important they think the project is, but that at this point there was no budget for it.

“We’re talking about a government commitment to jointly maintain this initiative,” Sagee said. 

Itzik Ben-Malki