My 100% and your 100% are never going to be the same; can we each live with 70%?

Photo: Yossi Zeliger (photo taken from the Rivon Harevii's Facebook page)

At the annual conference of the Rivon Harevii (“The Fourth Quarter”), there was so much that I was excited about. Over 5,000 people voted with their feet and showed up to the event, which practically “oozed” with palpable people power – a crowd united by an unshakable belief in the importance of acting now, during the current crisis, to build a strong future in the State of Israel.

Buzzwords at the Ve’ida (“Gathering”) included social cohesion, compromise, consensus, strength through diversity, and mutual respect.

Photo: Yossi Zeliger (photo taken from the Rivon Harevii’s Facebook page)

It’s not that people ignored their cynicism and frustration, their pain and anger. The key factor – the “magic sauce” that made the difference – was not the type of talking, actually, but the type of listening. There was an openness to hearing each other’s perspectives, even where we knew that we disagreed. The undercurrent was a passionate desire to explore new ways of helping the country move forward in more positive, healthy directions. Since the Ve’ida, a number of people approached me to find out more about the Rivon Harevii – a growing, grassroots movement that aims (in my own words) to take the poison out of Israel’s public discourse. Here are some of the more common questions I received:

  1. Was anything new proposed?

To me, one of the most important concepts emphasized at the Ve’ida relates to the number 70. Let me explain.

Ella Ringel, the Rivon Harevii’s CEO, unveiled a recent project: a newly drafted narrative, named Hasipur Hayisraeli (“The Israeli Story”). Hasipur Hayisraeli answers the “why” of our country’s existence.

It is designed to become a foundational narrative for Israeli society, and it was developed based on meetings that took place in dozens of parlor meetings all around the country. The meetings were open to anyone who wanted to join.

The Rivon Harevii’s activists – from all of Israel’s ideological, political, and culture subgroups – argued and proposed and experimented and resisted and spoke out and rethought. Finally, they came up with a text that everyone felt they could live with, despite their ideological differences.

When Ella Ringel presented Hasipur Hayisraeli to the crowd, she explained that no, she’s not 100% comfortable with the final wording. There are parts of it that she, as a secular Israeli woman, does not identify with; statements she would have preferred to take out, for example – or things she had wanted to add, that were nixed.

At the same time, she shared that she DOES identify with 70% of the narrative. And that’s the bottom line: If each sector in Israeli society expects Israel’s political and cultural reality to reflect its values 100%, we’re at an impasse. That’s where we are stuck right now: an impasse that is generating frustration and division.

Because my 100% and your 100% are never going to be the same. And then there’s no way to go forward – nothing left but the infighting that so weakened us prior to October 7. But if we each aim to identify with 70% of the narrative – suddenly, we have room to move ahead as a country. There’s a path along which we can start building a more inclusive, diverse, respectful society that makes space for all of us.

Photo: Yossi Zeliger (photo taken from the Rivon Harevii’s Facebook page)
  1. Did members of the Haredi community participate?

Yes, there were both participants and facilitators at the conference who self-identify as Haredi (“Ultra-Orthodox” – both Hassidim and Lita’im). In fact, a Rivon Harevii activist from the Haredi community was one of the key speakers. She shared with the audience her values, her choices, and her hopes for the future of the State of Israel.

And while this was not the focus of the Ve’ida, it’s worth mentioning that in recent months the Rivon Harevii published its own proposal for the Haredi draft. A group of Miluimnikim (IDF reservists) participated in a series of lengthy, in-depth discussions with a group of activists for the Rivon Harevii from the Haredi community. The goal: to hammer out a plan that everyone in the room felt they could live with.

It was a painful and difficult process, according to the people who participated in it. But by the end of the series of meetings, an innovative proposal was written out. The proposal tackles “head on” the question of who, when, and how the Haredi community should be incorporated into the IDF to create a more even distribution of the burden of our national defense.

  1. Were there any in-depth discussions at the Ve’ida?

I signed up to be a facilitator at the conference, so for a small part of the evening, my job was to initiate a discussion with a group of 12 participants – to explore some of the issues dividing Israeli society.

As part of the discussion, we all split up into groups of three. (Just to clarify – the entire audience of over 5,000 people was split up into groups of three. All in the same space! Somehow, this worked.) Each threesome created its own, small circle and debated Israel’s hottest questions – from the thorny issue of the Haredi draft, to whether public transportation should run on Shabbat.

To get the conversations going, printed cards were distributed with quotes relating to a variety of key topics: Zionism in Israel, Israeli democracy, Arab society in Israel, mutual responsibility, and Israel as a Jewish State. The task for each participant: “Choose one card you agree with wholeheartedly, and one card you find hard to stomach. And explain why.” As you can imagine, this prompted some deep, fiery discussions extremely quickly.

Discussing the thorniest topics in Israeli society at the Rivon Harevii’s annual conference
  1. What was the speaker program like?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the program was a series of speakers, each of whom told personal stories from a different “slice” of Israeli society. They shared their own experiences, for example:

  • A secular officer in the IDF responsible for a battalion of Tanks was stationed up on the northern border on October 8. He discovered that his tanks were missing the metal protective covers that each tank needed. A group of Beinishim (this acronym means IDF soldiers who are also students in Hesder yeshivas) searched for suitable pieces of metal and quickly found ways to build the necessary covers. The officer talked about his realization that he had been too quick to judge people in the past; and how much he was moved by the dedication of these yeshiva students, people who (in other circumstances) he would have assumed he had nothing in common with.
  • A woman from the Druze community in Ramla talked about the complexity and pride of their dual identity as both Arabs and Israelis. A story she shared: Her son was super excited to see articles online in Arabic from UAE about sending rockets to outer space, since they speak Arabic at home and he appreciated reading the articles in Arabic in print. But when he drew his own pictures of rockets, he drew them with a Magen David (“Star of David”). She finished with, “What is good for my neighbor – is good for me, too… 10,000 times over.”
  • A school principal from the Shomron (Samaria) recently brought a group of her teaching staff to attend a workshop, together with a second group of teachers from a secular, Tel Aviv school. The encounter was so meaningful that by the end of the workshop, the secular principal found herself defining one of the goals for her school for the coming year as the strengthening of Jewish values; while the religious principal found herself defining one of the goals for her school, as the strengthening of democratic values.
  • Prior to the war, a woman from the North who is heavily involved in local community work learned that there had been protests within the city by individuals opposed to the proposed legal reforms. People from her city wanted to counter-protest, but she put a stop to it. “The whole country is being eaten up by this. Let’s not let it spread to the North,” she told them. And it worked.
Liat Cohen Raviv. Photo: Yossi Zeliger (Photo taken from the Rivon Harevii’s Facebook page)
  1. Who is funding the Rivon Harevii?

The Rivon Harevii is funded by private individuals and organizations who are publicly listed on the website (see here).

  1. Interesting, how can I get involved?

Being involved in the Rivon Harevii can mean a bunch of different things. You can volunteer to be a facilitator at events like the Ve’ida, but there are other types of activities as well. For example, my husband and I recently joined our local chapter, which includes a mix of people – religious and secular, right-wing and left-wing, Olim and native-born Israelis, from a range of ages.

The first meeting of our chapter took place over a month ago. A Rivon Harevii activist from the Haredi community was the guest speaker. He patiently and intelligently presented the Rivon Harevii’s proposal for the Haredi draft, speaking honestly from his own point of view. Some of it was hard for some members of the group to hear, and tensions ran high. It was intense and some of it, for me, was a little uncomfortable. But afterwards I realized: That’s the whole point. We have work to do; and we’re getting started.

In the second meeting of our chapter, there was a Zoom debate between two of the chapter members: One individual who self-identified as being the most politically left wing (compared to the rest of us) and one individual who self-identified as being the most politically right wing. The twist was that each of them debated the other person’s point of view.

It’s not just talk; there are other types of activities being initiated, as well. This month, there are plans for a group to spend a day helping to fix up homes that were damaged by the war. There are also plans to go and help farmers in the Gaza Envelope. Some of the scheduled events are in person, while others take place on Zoom.

Rivon Harevii events are announced on Facebook as well as on our WhatsApp group. You can join the WhatsApp group here.

This post was written with prayers for the safety of the chayalim, the return of the hostages, and the healing of the wounded.

Note that the opinions shared here are my own and have not been reviewed or approved by the leadership of the Rivon Harevii. 

About the Author
Aliza Israel made Aliyah 30 years ago from the US. A marketing writer for the technology sector, she lives in Alon Shvut with her husband Alex and their children.
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