Mike Prashker – Shared Experiences

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Taken as a whole, it is safe to assume that an overwhelming majority of Israel’s 7.7 million citizens have quite frequently found themselves the victims of crude generalizations, prejudice and stereotypes at the hands of other groups of their fellow citizens.

The fact that experiences like these are shared by so many is obviously a source of great personal upset and collective concern for the future of Israeli society, but also possibly a paradoxical source of some hope. But only if we all – together, as Israeli citizens – begin to take shared responsibility for what currently feel like our particular misfortunes.

The reality is that the corrosive state of intergroup relations in Israel is not only about particular attitudes toward Arabs, secular, ultra-orthodox, orthodox and progressive Jews, gays and heterosexuals, immigrants and veterans, men and women; it is also about our overwhelmingly negative attitudes to everyone different from ourselves.

To make progress we have to understand that all these attacks are inter-connected by shared negative attitudes to “others,” held by many or all groups across Israeli society.

We need to cultivate a collective culture of acceptance of diversity.

This is not only of basic moral importance, but according to all our traditions, it is absolutely essential for our collective survival and success as we are all part of a society which is, above all else, characterized by its diversity.

Key to making change is the creation of many more opportunities for Israelis of all backgrounds to gain a comfortable familiarity. From experience, this will quickly reveal shared identities, values and interests, reduce our prejudices and fears, and pave the way to building a far better shared future.

 

The writer is director and founder of Merchavim – the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel and initiator of Kulanana.

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