President Rivlin Working on Anti-racism Program

Tells Reform leaders: 'This is a terrible evil and a disgrace to Israeli life.'

Tess Scheflan

President Reuven Rivlin has been working in recent weeks on a multidisciplinary program to combat incitement and violence, as he replied in a letter to the head of the Reform Movement who had congratulated him when he took office. Several discussions about the program, which is in the preliminary stages, have already taken place in various government ministries, including the Education Ministry.

“Since I was chosen for my position, I have devoted most of my time to a cross-border, cross-sector Israeli campaign in the homes of all the soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge. I have met amazing families and wonderful young people who display great energy, good will, dedication and Zionism,” Rivlin wrote about two weeks ago to Reform Movement leaders in Israel. “Still, I have not refrained from expressing my fears of the rising voices of hatred, hotheadedness and racism in Israeli society, particularly between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.”

Rivlin added, “These voices find expression at sports matches, on social networks and in the media. This is a terrible evil and a disgrace to Israeli life, which must find ways to isolate and uproot it.”

Rivlin has spoken out several times in recent weeks against displays of hatred and racism. In his first Knesset speech after being sworn in as president, he said: “At this difficult time, too, we must not close our eyes to the extremism and violence that have raised their ugly heads among us.”

On July 30, he expressed support for the “situation room of sanity” established by Gili Roman, a teacher at Hakfar Hayarok High School, in which pupils respond “to violence and bullying with a voice of moderation and tolerance.”

On August 6, Rivlin condemned the racial slurs that had been shouted at Maharan Radi, a player on the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team, and on August 17 he wrote, “The displays of incitement against [married couple] Mahmoud [Mansour] and Morel [Malka] of Jaffa are infuriating and distressing. ... There are tough and harsh disagreements among us, but incitement, violence and racism have no place in Israeli society.”

In his letter to the heads of the Reform Movement, Rivlin wrote, “Even before I was elected, and with greater intensity since I was elected, I have been working together with my advisory team on preparing and presenting a multidisciplinary program to combat incitement and violence. I hope that this program will solidify the efforts to combat violence in society as a whole, and contribute to a positive and supportive atmosphere that will take the form of a long-term change in the public climate in the State of Israel.” Sources in the president’s official residence said that Rivlin’s work on the issue was “in the first stages of preparation.”

The executive director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid urging the establishment of an interministerial committee for the fight against racism, as stipulated in the coalition agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu. No such committee has been established yet.