Merav Galili

Tiberias: Illuminating the path to national resilience

Downtown Tiberias, which lies on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, August 23, 2023. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Downtown Tiberias, which lies on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, August 23, 2023. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

In the turbulent aftermath of the October 7 attacks and the persisting echoes of war, the nation’s quest for strength and stability has reached a pivotal juncture. While much attention is rightfully directed towards fortifying the overarching structures of the nation and the state, a paradigm shift is imperative — a transformation that begins at the grassroots level.

The urgency of this bottom-up approach becomes glaringly evident in the wake of the widespread displacement of thousands of residents from the north and south to cities and municipalities across the country. Tiberias, a city grappling with its unique challenges, faced an extraordinary test of resilience when it experienced a sudden 20% population increase due to the absorption of over 10,000 displaced individuals. Yet, it is precisely in such adversity that Tiberias showcased its mettle.

Ranked among the lowest on the socio-economic index of Israeli cities, Tiberias had endured management instability, persistent budget deficits, and the economic setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic in preceding years. However, amid the ongoing war, Tiberias successfully hosted and supported thousands of displaced individuals without disrupting the lives of its residents, simultaneously transforming challenges into opportunities.

The displaced individuals, arriving from 22 communities in the Gaza periphery, the Upper Galilee, and the Golan Heights, found not just refuge but an integrated community in Tiberias. The municipality’s proactive approach established educational and community institutions, catering the immediate needs of the displaced but also ensuring a sustainable future for its existing residents.

The success of Tiberias is a testament to the power of grassroots initiatives, proving that building from the bottom up is the surest way to immunize our nation against the uncertainties that lie ahead. Over the past four years, the Menomadin Foundation has proudly partnered with Tiberias, aiding in the development of comprehensive initiatives to fortify municipal systems. Recognizing that education cannot thrive without addressing socio-economic complexities, the foundation strategically aligned efforts to simultaneously advance various programs and initiatives. In collaboration with the NGO Joint Ashalim, Tiberias actively participated in the Ministry of Welfare’s “Local Government Mobilization” initiative, promoting improvements across education, welfare, health, and community sectors. This collaborative effort resulted in robust internal communication practices, efficient processes, and effective decision-making, culminating in extraordinary local resilience.

Aiming to replicate the success of Tiberias nationwide, the Menomadin Foundation has decided to launch parallel programs with 10 local authorities in the northern and southern border regions. This expansion of the foundation’s strategic philanthropy focus seeks to establish tailored local infrastructures capable of addressing both routine challenges and emergencies.

Strengthening local resilience is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It’s time to embark on a nationwide journey of strengthening local municipalities—a journey that will ultimately fortify the very core of our nation.

About the Author
Dr. Merav Galili is the CEO of the Menomadin Foundation, an international Israeli-based impact fund that promotes innovative solutions to sustainable development challenges in Israel and Africa, in a model that combines strategic philanthropy and impact investments. Over two decades in senior management positions in academia and non-profit organizations, Dr. Galili has specialized in establishing local and international partnerships to promote business and social initiatives. In her last position, she served as Vice President for Development at Bar-Ilan University.
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