In September this year, I started a nine-month Yahel fellowship in Lod. Their concept of Service Learning allows me to develop an understanding of educational challenges and to grasp the actual meaning of “social change” through encounters with diverse realities on the grounds of schools and informal education in a mixed city. Never before have I been involved with so many different social subgroups: working within a Jewish religious and a Jewish secular school, with young Arab women in a theatre and with asylum seekers from Eritrea. Never before has my own position within these groups been so unclear to me.
Many times before I have heard the term “mixed city”, a city in which both Arabs and Jews live, wondering what people actually mean by it. Lod frequently serves as an example of a mixed city, even though some don’t think this term reflects the reality of its residents. The reactions I got from people about my fellowship in Lod are not mixed at all. “You must be crazy to go there! It’s dangerous! You don’t know what you’re doing!” and “What have you lost in Lod? There is nothing but crime families. It’s a hopeless place”. Anyways, if people don’t agree on the term “mixed city”, then “shared society” as a goal points out to us that even though there is a significant percentage of Arabs residing there, this doesn’t mean they share equal social services, education and representation within local government authorities .
I came to Lod to understand how people living there view their mixed city: to understand what they view as necessary to create a shared society, and to see what different approaches grow from within communities that struggle with the challenges of a mixed city on a daily basis. How do you build trust between the Arab and the Jewish community, especially after the May events? It is resigning and frustrating how the little piece of trust, achieved over decades, was erased within just a few weeks in May, even from the perspective of an outsider.
My internship at the Abraham Initiatives (AI) enables me to see the obstacles and opportunities locals perceive in their communities regarding a shared society, and how NGOs such as the Abraham Initiatives use their voice to mediate between government bodies and the communities they are designed to serve. I am entering this experience with the hope to get an insight into these processes and to understand my own part in them.